It's been nine years since the death of Larry H. Miller, a car dealer known for his outsized personality and his dedication to his many businesses, especially his beloved Utah Jazz. He's been gone since the Deron WilliamsCarlos Boozer days, yet grandson Zane Miller still gets choked up when he thinks about losing Larry at age 64 to Type 2 diabetes complications.
"I felt helpless when it came to his health," said Zane, who remembers eating out with Larry as a teen. "I would order something healthy and skip getting soda in hopes of influencing him to do the same."
But Larry didn't take the hint.
"He wouldn't listen until it was too late," said Zane, who was once the little, blond boy known for trailing Larry from the Jazz court to the locker room after the final buzzer sounded.
The Millers, led by matriarch Gail, are working to turn their tragedy into more than a cautionary tale by teaming up with University of Utah Health to launch the Driving Out Diabetes Initiative. The three-year enterprise will fund innovative research that focuses on drug discovery, uncovering causes, and management and prevention. It will support the development of cutting-edge clinical programs designed to attack diabetes in novel ways.
The crisis is becoming so severe that health experts in our state can't afford to simply wait at clinics hoping people show up for help. They've realized they need to go out into underserved communities to find people who can benefit from potentially life-saving resources. With that in mind, a hands-on Wellness Bus will hit the road starting in June to proactively find people to assist with health counseling, prevention education, and blood sugar and cholesterol testing. Areas that will receive weekly visits include Glendale, Kearns, South Salt Lake and Midvale.
The clock is ticking. So far, 145,000 adults in Utah have been diagnosed with the disease--more than seven percent of the population. And, in the U.S., an astounding 84 million adults have prediabetes, meaning they are at increased risk of developing the full-blown illness; disturbingly, 9 out of 10 people don't know they have prediabetes. The financial numbers aren't pretty either: As a nation, we are already spending one out of every five health care dollars on diabetes, a leading cause of preventable blindness, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and...