By: Patrick Totty
UnitedHealthcare of New England has announced that it plans to introduce a statewide program to prevent type 2 diabetes in Rhode Island sometime in 2011. Of the state’s 2010 population of 1,053,000, an estimated 62,000 adults have diabetes-almost 6 percent of the population-according to the Rhode Island Department of Health. The department estimates that another 31,000 adults have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 20 and 24 percent of the state’s population is obese. (Obesity is defined as “extreme overweight,” usually starting at a body mass index of 30 or above and including men more than 20 percent and women more than 25 percent over ideal weight.)
Although program details have not been made final, UnitedHealthcare says it will introduce a diabetes-prevention program aimed at people with pre-diabetes through its Rhode Island affiliate. The company plans to eliminate co-pays for medical consultations on diabetes prevention, as well as establish a diabetes care program through primary care physicians. The company will also set up a diabetes control program in conjunction with pharmacists, initially with Walgreens.
UnitedHealthcare of New England is a division of UnitedHealth Group, a Minneapolis-based group of healthcare companies that serves approximately 70 million U.S. customers. According to the group’s statistics, its nationwide network of medical experts and centers includes 632,000 physicians and healthcare professionals, 80,000 dentists, and 5,060 hospitals. Its pharmaceutical management programs affect 13 million people.
Tom Beauregard, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group and executive director of the Center for Health Reform & Modernization, says that efforts to increase awareness of pre-diabetes should take on the same level of urgency as previous efforts to alert the U.S. public about the dangers of smoking. “Some 90 percent of pre-diabetics don’t know it, and more than one-quarter of all diabetics don’t know they have the condition,” says Beauregard, calling for efforts at earlier screening and detection, with a special focus on children and childhood.
A recent analysis published by UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization says that more than half of all Americans could have pre-diabetes or diabetes by 2020, with medicines, treatments, poor health, and loss of productivity costing the economy up to $3.35 trillion over the next decade.