Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) marks its founding on April 7, 1948 – World Health Day– by highlighting a topic with significant implications for global health. This year the organization will shed a global spotlight on a condition that hits close to home for a staggering number of people: diabetes. Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies share the goal of working to beat this disease.
The WHO reports that nearly 350 million people worldwide have diabetes, and estimates that number is likely to more than double in the next 20 years. Diabetes was directly responsible for 1.5 million deaths in 2012, and was a contributing factor for scores of others thanks to resulting complications such as kidney failure and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
All of these figures are concerning, but the most troubling detail of the global health problem is that 90% of diabetes cases worldwide are type 2 diabetes, a condition that is largely preventable through healthy diet and exercise. The impact of diabetes on commercially insured Americans is equally concerning, as a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Health of America report finds.
The 36 BCBS companies are united in a collective mission to help Americans live healthy lives by providing a variety of resources to organizations, schools, families and individuals to help create a healthier living environment for all. Preventing the continued spread of diabetes in our communities is a key priority.
Across the country, BCBS companies are working to improve access to healthy foods and provide opportunities for people to be physically active in their communities. Programs cover different stages of the disease, from prevention, to management, to support of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
In California, Anthem Blue Cross partnered with the American Diabetes Association to sponsor Tour de Cure, Step Out LA, and Fit for a Cause. Since 2012, Anthem Blue Cross and its associates contributed over $120,000 in support of ADA’s efforts.
For three years, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has sponsored the Ibero American Action League’s Latino Diabetes Program. The culturally appropriate intervention program in Rochester, N.Y., provides Latino participants with information about nutrition, physical activity and self-care to help them manage diabetes and hypertension. In 2015, 93 percent had their hypertension under control and 83 percent their glucose levels under control. The Latino Diabetes Program was one of 12 associated with diabetes prevention or management that Excellus BCBS helped to fund in 2015.
The overall risk for type 2 diabetes in people with severe mental illness is between two and four times that of the general population. As part of its competitive statewide wellness grants program, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska provided a grant to the Liberty Centre Services in Norfolk, Nebraska, to support the organization’s diabetes prevention program for adults and children with mental illness. The grant included blood glucose monitoring, nutrition education, wellness events and community awareness initiatives designed to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes for individuals with mental illness.
A grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma to the University of Oklahoma supports Wavelengths: Transition Program for Young Adults with Diabetes at the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center (HHDC). The program focuses on comprehensive diabetes care, centering on seamless transition between pediatric and adult care teams, providing comprehensive education and coping skills to empower teenagers and young adults with diabetes to assume autonomous care. In addition, the program seeks to conduct clinical research to address the unique challenges and needs young people and their families face when dealing with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
And in Illinois, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL)-supported Lawndale Diabetes Project is continuing to improve the lives of Chicagoans in the North and South Lawndale neighborhoods. Since 2011, BCBSIL has invested more than $2.4 million to fund programs managed by the Sinai Urban Health Institute. Building off their previous work with Sinai using community health workers to identify diabetics in North and South Lawndale, the current program explores the most impactful and cost-effective diabetes management methods, including text messaging, as a tool for high risk patients.
Through local programs like these, such as this effort in Puerto Rico, BCBS companies hope to help lead the way to national – and global – improvements in diabetes prevention and management. This World Health Day, we’re proud to support awareness of the fight against this serious public health issue.
To learn more about how BCBS companies work to help improve the health of the communities we serve, download the full Investing in America’s Health report.