Diabetes, an incurable chronic disease, is a growing epidemic in the United States, afflicting more than 30 million people. In five years, that number is projected to grow to more than 50 million. By 2030, diabetes treatment is likely to cost more than $600 billion a year.

Two scenarios loom on the horizon, according to Judith Vecchione, executive producer of WGBH Studio Six’s forthcoming two-hour documentary Blood Sugar Rising. One is collapse of the US economy due to the skyrocketing costs of care. The other is life-saving discoveries and possibly a cure.

Vecchione is hoping her new film will help tip the balance toward a more positive future.

“There are two trends going on here at the same time,” says Vecchione. “Yes, this is a very scary, very dangerous epidemic. But the other is all the scientific knowledge, progress and experimentation. We’re looking at a tipping point and, perhaps, a moment of hope.”

For the eight years she’s been conceptualizing and now finally producing Blood Sugar Rising, she’s wondered, “Why isn’t there a war on diabetes? Why are we not pouring resources into this enormous epidemic?”

“For years I’ve been seeing ads for diabetes drugs on television, articles about the epidemic and yet nothing was happening to alert the public,” she recalls.

The film began to crystallize when she met Ed Damiano. A bioengineer who will be featured in the film, he is one of many Americans affected by the disease. Damiano began his quest to build a “bionic pancreas” when his toddler son was diagnosed with diabetes. Now, 18 years later, his dream is within reach. Blood Sugar Rising captures his most recent tests of a smartphone-sized device that is designed to automatically regulate a diabetic’s blood sugar levels.

“Really hopeful things are coming ahead,” says Vecchione. “They may not be cures, but they are management tools that we never thought we’d have. That gives us time to find a cure.”

Vecchione hopes the film conveys that optimism and jolts viewers to take action in their communities by building awareness, offering screening services and educating about prevention.

Studio Six, one of WGBH’s major production units, will also be preparing numerous resources that communities and local public media stations can use to maximize the impact of the film. A dedicated website, social media campaign and varied digital resources for Blood Sugar Rising are in the works, with the goal of starting local conversations about needs, resources and engagement with diabetes prevention and treatment.

Studio Six has a special niche at WGBH. Our iconic national series — NOVA for science, FRONTLINE for investigative journalism, American Experience for history, and MASTERPIECE for drama — leave a special role for an additional production unit to work on the other areas that public media has long valued. Studio Six produces 70 hours of new content each year in natural history, culture and civic society, and lifestyles programming, such as cooking and travel. Flagship programs include Point Taken, America After Ferguson, Simply Ming and Moveable Feast.

“What we can do in film is limited,” says Vecchione. “The script for a two-hour film is like a long magazine article. It’s not a book, it’s not a report. But this is what we can do really well with film: engage with our audiences.”

The film is due out in April 2020. Watch the preview here.

Archival footage courtesy of the Helmsley Charitable Trust and Redfitz Productions.