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Diabetes screenings and telephone support represent an efficient way to impact community health

Story Date: Thu, 09 May 2013 15:54:00 CDT

Community-based screenings for diabetes – combined with support for patients and their physicians – can be an efficient way to impact community health.

That’s one finding of a community intervention conducted by the EVMS Strelitz Diabetes Center in southeastern Virginia. The results of that effort were presented May 2 in Phoenix at the 22nd Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (ACCE).

Southeastern Virginia is a hotspot for Type 2 diabetes. It has one of the highest diabetes-related mortality rates in Virginia. Representatives from the Strelitz Diabetes Center have targeted the area recently, with grant support from the Obici Healthcare Foundation and the Anthem Foundation.

The diabetes center hosted a series of screenings across the area to identify people with the disease or at risk of developing it soon. The study found that just more than half (52 percent) of the 1,600 individuals who were screened had pre-diabetes or diabetes. Three-quarters were overweight or obese, a risk-factor for the development of diabetes and heart disease.

Following the screenings, center staff worked to enroll the newly diagnosed individuals in a telephone lifestyle management program. A certified diabetes educator from the center spoke with each interested person several times by phone over a six-month period to educate them about the disease and encourage healthy lifestyle choices. The participants reported a 30 percent increase in their general knowledge of diabetes and success in improving food choices, increasing physical activity or losing weight.

The approach also included outreach to community physicians throughout the region. The Strelitz Diabetes Center developed online educational modules that 190 community providers accessed.

Joseph A. Aloi, MD, Clinical Director of the Strelitz Diabetes Center and principal investigator on the study, says the positive results demonstrate the value of community-based screening for diabetes.

“The screening program, coupled with the phone management intervention, empowered these individuals to make positive lifestyle changes,” he says. “That’s good for them and, potentially, good for their loved ones, friends and neighbors who may be inspired by their efforts.”

The EVMS mission is to become recognized as the most community-oriented school of medicine and the health professions in the country.

“This program is a wonderful example of the school’s community focus and its commitment to improve the health of the people throughout the region,” says Jerry L. Nadler, MD, Chair of Internal Medicine at EVMS and the Harry H. Mansbach Chair in Internal Medicine.