Diabetes Ten City Challenge

Local Press Release

Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership Selected by the APhA Foundation to Participate in the DTCC

DALTON, GA – The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation announced today that the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership and the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health are the first employer groups to be selected to participate in the “Diabetes Ten City Challenge,” an innovative new employer-based diabetes management program.

“The Diabetes Ten City Challenge is inviting employer groups in 10 communities to establish a voluntary health benefit for employees and dependents that provides employee incentives and helps people manage diabetes with support from pharmacists, physicians and diabetes educators,” according to APhA Foundation CEO William Ellis.

The Diabetes Ten City Challenge, sponsored by the APhA Foundation with support and funding from GlaxoSmithKline, is modeled after the highly successful Asheville Project in North Carolina, a diabetes management program proven to improve overall health, reduce absenteeism, shorten hospital stays and reduce health care costs.  The Asheville Project is now in its eighth year and has grown from 47 participants at two employers to more than 1,000 participants at five organizations.

“Results of the Asheville Project showed that people are more likely to take prescribed medications and track their condition with blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol checks, and eye and foot exams.  As a result, their employers saved between $1,622 and $3,356 per participant annually, based on reduced emergency room visits and fewer diabetes-related hospitalizations,” said Daniel Garrett, APhA Foundation senior director of Medication Adherence Programs.

“The APhA Foundation is challenging 10 communities to transform the health care system, just as it was transformed in Asheville,”  Ellis said.  “By investing in aligned incentives and helping people manage their conditions, the Diabetes Ten Cities Challenge shows how health care can be an investment in well-being rather than an expense for sickness.”

“Proof of the potential is clear because every organization that has implemented a program based on the Asheville Project is either continuing or expanding it,” said APhA Foundation consultant John P. Miall, a member of the Diabetes Ten City Challenge Advisory Committee and retired risk manager for the City of Asheville, where he was instrumental in creating and implementing the Asheville Project.  “We estimate that more than 3,000 people with diabetes already benefit in at least 10 states.  If Asheville is any indicator, the program will grow exponentially once it is implemented through APhA’s program,” he added.

“This is an absolute dream come true, to have a program with proven success that our employers can participate in as a community,” said Nancy Kennedy, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership.  The non-profit collaborative of health care providers, government, educators and business/industry representatives was founded in 1992 to address health care issues in the “Carpet Capital of the World”, Whitfield and Murray Counties.

Working with the Healthcare Partnership, four employers based in Dalton, will participate in the first year of the Diabetes Ten City Challenge.  They include Dalton Utilities, Hamilton Health Care System, the City of Dalton and Whitfield County.

The Healthcare Partnership was inspired by dramatic results at Mohawk Industries’ Dublin, Georgia plant that piloted the APhA Foundation’s diabetes management program.  Seventy of the plant’s 700 employees are now in the program.  “I am sold on this program.  It’s incredible,” said Judy Pair, Mohawk Industries benefits director, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership.  “Our participants’ health and quality of life are greatly improved, and we are paying less than half of the total medical dollars we paid for the same people two years ago.”

Pair said since Mohawk started the program in 2003, hospitalizations have been cut in half for the original participants, whose doctor-office visits increased as they learned how to better manage diabetes. Seeing their physicians regularly for routine care and lab work helped people stay well and out of the hospital, she added. Within a year, their absenteeism from work also dropped to less than half the days missed previously, and continued at that level.

“The whole key is the education and the relationship people build with the pharmacist they meet on a regular basis,” Pair explained. “Employees are so appreciative of the pharmacist’s time to explain things they did not know, and they work more closely with their doctors as a result.  They had heard stories of going on dialysis, of amputations, but no one had taken the time to tell them that these things don’t have to happen.”

More than 20 million Americans have diabetes (7 percent of the population), and the number of people diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 63 percent (almost two-thirds) of people diagnosed with diabetes are not achieving control of the disease.  The U.S. spends $13,242 on each patient with diabetes, compared with $2,560 per person for people who do not have diabetes.

Because of Northwest Georgia’s exploding Latino population, the community has a vested interest in teaching people how to better manage diabetes.  According to the American Diabetes Association, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is 1.5 times higher in Latinos than non-Latino whites and approximately 24% of Mexican Americans in the United   States between the ages of 45-74 have diabetes.

“Our hope is that we can put together a program such as this so that all of our employers can participate.  If we can do what Asheville and Dublin,  Georgia, have done it will be a tremendous coup for the community and we feel confident that additional employers will want to participate,” says Kennedy.

The APhA Foundation will provide the resources and project management tools for the new initiative and support employers in setting up their programs.  The Foundation also will guide local pharmacists as they work with physicians, diabetes educators and other community resources to establish the program and necessary local relationships.