SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to diabetes prevention and control, Utah receives national applause.
The state's partnership between the Utah Department of Health, HealthInsight and eight major health care plans received national attention from Dr. Ann Albright, director of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Albright addressed the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health earlier this month during a hearing. The hearing looked at advances in research of type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes in addition to other related public health efforts, current understanding of the causes and consequences, and evidence-based prevention and management strategies.
During the hearing, Albright told Congress the Utah Health Plan Partnership, funded by the CDC, stands out as an example of applying the best diabetes science to practical strategies at the state level to control and prevent diabetes among Utahns.
Between 2004 and 2009, the Utah Health Plan Partnership improved all measures that affect quality and length of life for plan members with diabetes, Albright said. Those measures included increases in average blood glucose control, lipid control, rates of documented eye exams and screening to assess kidney function.
"When the health plans combine efforts, innovation, and resources, we are all much more successful in addressing the health needs of our community," said Lynette Hansen, quality improvement manager for Altius Health Plans. "Not only are we more effective in reaching individuals, but we also receive greater cooperation from physicians and the medical community."
Diabetes is a group of diseases affecting the body's blood sugar, also called glucose. High levels of glucose in the body can cause symptoms that include excessive thirst, fatigue, increased hunger, frequent urination, blurry vision and unexplained weight loss. If not adequately controlled, complications can include amputation, heart disease, stroke and blindness. The total national cost associated with diabetes in 2007 exceeded $218 billion, according to Albright.
Fewer than a handful of states have been able to bring key players from major health plans together to address diabetes prevention and management, Albright said. Utah's partnership members include the state health departments, Diabetes Prevention and Control Program, UDOH heart disease and stroke prevention program, Altius, Molina Health Care of Utah, Public Employees Health Plan, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah, SelectHealth, UnitedHealthcare of Utah, University Health Care, Utah Medicaid and HealthInsight.
Part of the project includes a patient feedback form that eye-care providers can use to report to results of retinal eye exams to the patient's primary care physician.
"This partnership is truly unique in that these health plans are competitors who have united for the good of their communities and for the improved health of their members," said Richard Bullough, program manager of the UDOH DPCP.
For more information go to http://health.utah.gov/diabetes/healthplanpartnership.