Not every county with rates of diagnosed diabetes above 11.2 percent lies within the newly designated region—some are as far afield as Washington and Montana. But regardless of location, the new information should help local officials have a better understanding of their areas' problems—and make a better case for additional resources for prevention and management programs. "When you give the [local] number itself, that's more of a motivation for action," Mokdad says.
Mokdad and some of his colleagues at IHME hope to provide even more county-level data by combining the phone survey information with findings from smaller, national clinical studies. Their findings, published in 2010 in Population Health Metrics, include additional risk factors such as the prevalence of fast-food restaurants, in addition to data about how well people's diabetes are being managed. "That's the next wave of what we need to provide to these counties," he says.
But Barker calls attention back to the national diagnosed diabetes rate of 8.5, suggesting it is not exactly the best target to have in mind—even for counties that currently have the highest prevalence rates. "While diabetes is more of a problem in the diabetes belt, it's a problem everywhere, and we shouldn't overlook that."