Bethesda, MD -America’s Health Centers are vital tools in the war against diabetes, a disease that impacts 25.8 million children and adults in the United States. November is American Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness about the disease and urge people at risk to get screened and treated to avoid serious and costly diabetes-related complications. The World Health Organization and American Diabetes Association projects that deaths from diabetes are projected to rise by more than 50% in the next 10 years.
Yet, America’s Health Centers are quietly fighting the disease through the Health Centers Diabetes Collaboratives, an innovative health program designed to generate improved health outcomes for chronic diseases nationwide. By providing affordable and comprehensive primary care services, health centers are able to reduce both the complications associated with diabetes and the health care costs that go along with treating people who suffer from diabetes-related illnesses, such as kidney damage, blindness, and poor circulation that can lead to limb amputation.
“As a medical home easily accessible to our community members, our health center sees a lot of patients who have been living with diabetes, but have never been tested for it,” said Gary Wiltz, MD, President and CEO of Teche Action Center in Franklin, LA, and the Board Chair elect of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “We not only provide the screening, but also teach patients how to manage the disease with proper nutrition, exercise and regular testing. The health center model is focused on quality, patient-centered, preventive care so that chronic diseases never reach the acute stage where the treatment is costlier and less effective.”
Some 57 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The death rate due to diabetes has also risen by 45 percent since 1987. One out of every three children (and one in two minority children) born in the United States today will face a future with diabetes. The good news is that screenings and treatment are available at Community Health Centers and tools are available for patients to help manage their diabetes on their own. Health center patients are two times more likely than the national norm to have glycohemoglobin (blood sugar) tests performed at regular intervals, and are thus better able to avoid the complications associated with the disease.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which administers the Federal Health Centers program, diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases among health center patients, generating more than 3.5 million patient visits in 2009 (the most recent data available). There are also clear signs those numbers will only increase. A report by Direct Relief International showed that number of uninsured patients with diabetes at health centers increased by almost 7% last year
The Institute of Medicine and the General Accounting Office have recognized health centers as models for screening, diagnosing and managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, depression, cancer and HIV. Health centers’ efforts have led to improved health outcomes for their patients, which in turn generates cost-savings for the entire U.S. health care system.
About the FQHCmd Consulting Group
FQHCmd Consulting Group is a nationwide consulting group for FQHC, FQHC Look Alikes, Rural and Community Health Centers.