National Diabetes Month is a time that’s close to our hearts at CareMessage. That’s because we see it as a chance to raise awareness and also an opportunity to support significant change in the health and wellbeing of underserved populations.
According to a 2017 study by the American Diabetes Association, almost 30 million children and adults are managing a diabetes diagnosis. Another 86 million people are making care decisions after being diagnosed with prediabetes — the underserved are over-represented in these numbers.
Native American, Hispanic, and Black adults are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than White and Asian populations, according to the CDC. People with less than a high school education are also significantly more likely to receive a diagnosis.
Other social determinants of health have been found to be associated with diabetes, including income level, health literacy, gender (diabetes is more common in older men than women), food insecurity (though not food access), and barriers to attending scheduled appointments.
These factors mean that FQHCs, with their acute focus on social determinants, are in a unique position to make real progress in the fight against diabetes — especially considering recent news that diabetes trends might be moving in a more positive direction.
The U.S. has seen years of increases in the number of new cases of the disease, but new information reveals a potential change in that trend. Federal data released earlier this year by BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that new diabetes diagnoses dropped to about 1.3 million in 2017 — that’s a decrease from 1.7 million in 2009. While officials aren’t sure exactly what’s behind the shift, it does mean there’s a good chance that efforts to reduce the prevalence of the disease are working.
There’s a potentially huge payoff in reducing the rates of diabetes in underserved populations, since addressing the disease means that we can also reduce the risk of associated conditions, including:
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- Nerve damage
- Slow healing
- Kidney damage
- Eye damage
- Hearing issues
- Skin conditions
- Sleep apnea
Beating diabetes doesn’t mean just conquering a common disease of the endocrine system — it can mean addressing some of the most serious health conditions that underserved communities navigate.
The Road Forward
Since so many Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, we’re all impacted. Knowing risk factors (such as obesity) and the early warning signs can help individuals lead a healthier life and could even improve the health of someone you love. Early warning signs include:
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Vision issues
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Frequent urinary tract or yeast infections
- Skin discoloration
- Weight loss without effort
This, though, is just the start. There are multiple resources that can support both individuals and FQHCs in continuing the fight against diabetes.
National Diabetes Prevention Program: Led by the CDC, this program is a partnership between public and private organizations that help deliver affordable, evidence-based lifestyle change to help those with prediabetes either prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Fotonovela: This is a bilingual collection of stories of Latinas discussing preventing and delaying type 2 diabetes.
Other resources for Spanish speakers: These include podcasts, music videos, and a road-to- health toolkit focused on Latin American diabetes patients.
Resources for African Americans: This collection of podcasts, music, toolkits, and diabetes management resources has been curated for an African American audience.
- Reminding patients to get an A1C screening at least every 6 months
- Promoting screenings for patients who are at risk of developing diabetes
- Encouraging attendance at clinic events for Diabetes Day (Thursday, November 14, 2019)
Self-care is critical, which means empowering your patients to take control of their health is a major first step in reducing the impact diabetes has on our care communities.
This November, we invite you to join us here, on Twitter and on LinkedIn in observing diabetes month and stepping into a new future of progress against this challenging condition, and also to participate in a demo of the CareMessage Outreach feature. Sign up below!