Dropping weight and spending: A proven way to curb diabetes

AMA Wire
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People with prediabetes who participate in lifestyle intervention programs cost less to care for over time, according to a new study. These findings are encouraging in a time when one in three U.S. adults has this precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Released at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association in June, the study found that lifestyle interventions result in clinical benefits and potential health care savings. Adults with prediabetes who took part in a program adapted from the evidence-based National Diabetes Prevention Program and delivered at local YMCAs lost weight and spent less on health care over three years than those who did not participate in such a program.

Participants in the large, nationwide study had health insurance coverage through UnitedHealth Group and were given the option to participate in the program at no cost. Those who participated lost an average 3.6 percent of body weight and spent about $364 less on health care over three years than individuals with prediabetes who did not participate in the intervention program. About 35 percent of people who were encouraged by UnitedHealth to attend the program actually did it, according to the study.

Calculating the cost savings

Successes such as those confirmed in this study have led to a bill that was introduced to Congress. The legislation would require Medicare to cover services provided under the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

A study released last year estimated that the legislation would help reduce the cumulative rate of type 2 diabetes in the Medicare population by an estimated 37 percent after a decade, resulting in nearly 1 million fewer cases of diabetes among seniors by 2024. The study also found that the bill could reduce federal spending by $1.3 billion over 10 years.

How physicians are taking action

As part of its Improving Health Outcomes initiative, the AMA worked with the YMCA of the USA and 11 physician practice pilot sites in four states over the past year to develop tools and resources to increase physician screening,testing and referral for prediabetes. The practices referred their patients with prediabetes to diabetes prevention programs offered by local YMCAs, which were part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program. Medicare beneficiaries were able to participate in this program at no cost, thanks to an award from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

Now physicians across the country can join in this work. The AMA and the CDC have teamed up to issue a call to take urgent action with Prevent Diabetes STAT: Screen, Test, Act–Today™. This multi-year initiative helps physicians refer adults who have prediabetes to prevention programs in their communities and online.

Learn how to identify patients with undetected prediabetes, and find effective diabetes prevention programs near your practice.

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