HENRY T. RICKETTS, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Chicago
UNTIL the last war, the incidence of diabetes was thought to be from one-half to seven-tenths per cent of the total population, and the total number of diabetics was supposed to be not greater than one million. In 1943, Dr. Blotner,1 then a reserve officer in the army, examined some 45,000 inductees and found that among these relatively young men, in whom diabetes is less common than in older ages, the disease had an incidence of nearly one-half of 1 per cent. This aroused Dr. Blotner’s suspicion that diabetes was more prevalent than any of us had heretofore recognized. Three years later he2 was able to examine a larger group – some 69,000 inductees – and here with more careful methods and the more liberal use of blood sugars rather than urine sugars, an incidence of 1.1 per cent was found, again in this relatively young group of people. This implied more strongly than ever that in the population at large the number of diabetics must be considerably higher than formerly believed.
In 1947 this supposition was confirmed by a careful survey conducted by Drs. Wilkerson and Krall3 of the U. S. Public Health Service, in Oxford, Massachusetts, appropriately enough the former home of Dr. Elliott P. Joslin. Among some 3500 people who were carefully examined there were 70 diabetics in this town of approximately 5,000 inhabitants and of these 40 had previously known they had the disease and 30 had not suspected it. This then is a ratio of almost one. . .