November is National Diabetes Month, and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) is urging Americans to say “NOT ME”™to type 2 diabetes by knowing their numbers and getting tested for blood glucose, cholesterol and blood-pressure levels.
These indicators – along with other factors including age, inactive lifestyle and family history – may serve as warning signs for people who are at risk for prediabetes or diabetes and that it is time to take action to prevent the disease. For people with diabetes, the careful monitoring of these factors can help them better control their condition and reduce the risk of developing serious complications related to the disease.
“There is power in information, and knowing your numbers is the first, all-important step in learning whether you might be at risk for prediabetes or diabetes and saying ‘NOT ME’ to these conditions,” said Deneen Vojta, M.D., executive vice president and chief clinical officer of the UnitedHealth Group Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA). “UnitedHealth Group is helping people prevent and control diabetes so they can focus on leading healthier and more productive lives.”
An Innovative, Multidimensional Approach to Tackling the Health Care Issue of Our Time
Diabetes is taking a devastating toll on individuals, families, communities, employers and the nation’s health care system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are nearly 26 million American adults with diabetes. More than 90 percent of them suffer from type 2 diabetes, the often-preventable form of the disease. CDC data suggest that another 79 million Americans – 35 percent of the U.S. adult population – have prediabetes, meaning they are at grave risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, one of three children who were born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime if current trends continue.
Prediabetes is characterized by blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. People with prediabetes often do not display any symptoms, yet recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during prediabetes. More alarming still, more than 90 percent of people with prediabetes and about 25 percent of people with type 2 diabetes remain unaware of their condition.
According to a report from the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, if current trends continue, more than half of the nation’s adult population will have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020.
The impact of the diabetes epidemic in terms of both individual health outcomes and strained financial resources cannot be overstated. The disease has major implications for the long-term sustainability of the U.S. health care system; in 2010 diabetes cost the country an estimated $194 billion. If current trends continue, diabetes will account for an estimated 10 percent of total health care spending, or almost $500 billion a year.
“At UnitedHealth Group, innovation is specifically focused on areas that are of real concern in terms of sustainability in health care. We emphasize our research and development efforts in areas that can drive substantially better clinical outcomes and lower costs,” said Tom Beauregard, executive director of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization. “We are focused on the unfortunate chain from childhood obesity to prediabetes to diabetes, because that chain may represent more than 40 percent of the cost to the commercial health care system, and it’s all tied to behavior. It’s preventable.”
UnitedHealth Group and its family of businesses have introduced many community-based partnerships, wellness programs and health plan designs that encourage and empower people to take preventive steps and lead healthier lives.
DPCA Programs Achieve National Scale as America says “NOT ME” to Diabetes
The good news about our nation’s diabetes epidemic is that indisputable evidence has shown that early and aggressive intervention can reverse the disease’s course for people with prediabetes and reduce its devastating impact on people already diagnosed. Lifestyle changes and a 5- to 7-percent weight reduction can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent in people with prediabetes.
“NOT ME” from the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA) is an employer- and community-based initiative aimed at tipping the scales against the epidemic of type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and obesity. DPCA was launched last year through a partnership with UnitedHealth Group, the YMCA and Walgreens, and has since expanded to include Albertsons, Kroger, Novo Nordisk, Rite Aid and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings subsidiary Home Healthcare Laboratory of America.
The two core programs, Diabetes Prevention Program and the Diabetes Control Program, are available at no out-of-pocket cost to participants enrolled in employer-provided health insurance plans in select markets through UnitedHealthcare and Medica,
- The DPCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), offered through the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, is a group-based lifestyle intervention program that helps people who are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes prevent the disease through healthy eating, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes. The program consists of 16 core sessions, followed by monthly maintenance sessions for up to a year. Classes are led by a trained lifestyle coach who facilitates a small group of people in helping them learn about behavior changes that help them reduce risk for type 2 diabetes. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program.
- The Diabetes Control Program (DCP) connects people with diabetes with patient care pharmacists for private, one-on-one consultations that provide education and support to help people with diabetes better control their condition and reduce the risk of developing complications from diabetes, such as heart disease, nerve disease, blindness and limb amputations.
The DPCA programs are based on studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other federal agencies. These studies involved the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group, which includes researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine and faculty and researchers from numerous medical schools and research centers around the United States.
These signature programs are now available in 46 markets in 23 states, including: Alabama; Arizona; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Indiana; Iowa; Kentucky; Massachusetts; Minnesota; New Jersey, New Mexico; New York; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Texas; Washington; and Wisconsin; as well as Washington, D.C. The DPCA programs will continue to roll out in additional locations across the country through 2012. To learn more about diabetes and resources offered by UnitedHealth Group, visit: www.unitedhealthgroup.com/diabetes.
“Almost 80 million Americans have prediabetes, and many of them will face a future with type 2 diabetes unless they take steps to prevent the disease,” said Ann Albright, Ph.D., RD, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “It is critical that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes make the healthy lifestyle changes needed to prevent or delay diabetes. Innovative public-private partnerships are helping bring the CDC National Diabetes Prevention Program to communities across America, to provide the effective help that they need to protect their health.”
Dr. Albright will hold a live Twitter chat Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m. EST to answer questions about preventing type 2 diabetes and managing existing diabetes. To participate, follow CDC on Twitter @CDCgov or #CDCdiabetes. Questions can be submitted in advance at @CDCgov #CDCdiabetes, or on CDC’s Facebook page.
To help people learn if they may be at risk for type 2 diabetes, more information is available at http://notme.com/dpca/Home/Resources/selfIdentificationQuiz.html.
Diabetes Health Plan Promotes Engagement Through Benefit Incentives
UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual offers employers a first-of-its-kind health plan designed specifically to help the rapidly growing numbers of people with diabetes and prediabetes manage their conditions more effectively, while controlling the escalating costs to employers that insure them.
Going a step beyond traditional wellness programs, the Diabetes Health Plan (DHP) offers financial rewards for following medically proven preventive steps to help manage diabetes such as having regular blood sugar checks, routine health exams and preventive screenings. The DHP reduces or eliminates out-of-pocket expenses for diabetes and prediabetes care, medications and supplies in exchange for plan participants’ compliance.
Health care costs for an individual with diabetes average more than $11,700 a year, compared with $4,400 for employees without diabetes, according to UnitedHealthcare data. The DHP not only helps people live healthier lives, but also can save individuals up to $500 a year through free diabetes supplies, diabetes-related prescription drug, and lower co-pays, while helping lower total health care costs for employers.
The DHP helps employees increase compliance with American Diabetes Association guidelines by lowering or eliminating co-pays while identifying people with diabetes and prediabetes through proprietary claims analysis and optional enhancements to clients’ biometric screening events. Plan participants enjoy additional fund contributions in exchange for treatment plan adherence. Employers enjoy reduced long-term expenses and productivity losses, and increased employee satisfaction.
”The Diabetes Health Plan works hand-in-glove with the DPCA’s diabetes prevention and control programs,” said Beauregard. “Whereas the Diabetes Health Plan is an employee health benefit plan, the DPCA programs provide an adjunct network of care providers. These are distinct programs that share similar goals of better engaging communities, improving people’s health and well-being, and reducing long-term expenses. They represent a continuum of how UnitedHealth Group is thinking about and tackling the diabetes epidemic.”
Solutions to Support People with Diabetes and Prediabetes
UnitedHealth Group offers a wide variety of other solutions to support people with diabetes and prediabetes through UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, UnitedHealthcare Community & State and OptumHealth. Services include programs to assess type 2 diabetes risk, free screenings, and member education and outreach, as well as disease management and care coordination programs to help health plan participants better control their condition and reduce costs. For tips on diabetes prevention, visit http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/news/rel2010/Tips_People_with_Prediabetes.pdf.