Improve Health Outcomes in Underserved Communities

Even in communities with barriers to healthcare, exercise opportunities, and healthy food, residents with diabetes saw improved health outcomes when they participated in programs that took a coordinated care approach to diabetes self-management. This finding is based on evaluations of such efforts in several U.S. communities by researchers from the University of Kansas (KU) Work Group for Community Health and Development.

The group is evaluating Together on Diabetes, a nationwide initiative funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to benefit underserved adult populations disproportionately affected by type 2 diabetes.

Work group graduate research assistants Ithar Hassaballa and Charles E. Sepers Jr. led evaluations of two diabetes interventions in five communities across the country. Both projects reported improved clinical outcomes for participants, including reductions in diastolic blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and HbA1c, glycated hemoglobin, or blood sugar levels.

The program Hassaballa evaluated provided diabetes self-management education, support, and comprehensive diabetes care to female African-American public housing residents through a patient-centered medical home, and employed Diabetes Health Ambassadors. The ambassadors were also African-American women who lived in the same public housing community and had type 2 diabetes that was well controlled.

“In a world where resources are limited, it’s important to engage community members as champions for diabetes education and support,” said Hassaballa. “That way, they are active participants in the provision of care and can play an important role in assuring that interventions fit the context of the local people.”

“This research provides support for improving patient outcomes through a patient-centered care approach that features nonclinical staff like community health workers,” said Sepers. “These types of innovations are necessary to build the healthcare capacity to keep pace with the growing number of medically underserved Americans experiencing diabetes and other chronic diseases.”

This article was adapted from information provided by the KU Life Span Institute.

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