It’s a day to share information about the symptoms and the health risks of diabetes. Swope Health supports this effort, because for us, diabetes prevention, education and treatment are part of our daily work.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar (or glucose) is too high. Normally your body regulates glucose by producing insulin, which helps glucose get converted into energy in your cells. When your body doesn’t make enough insulin or when your cells become resistant to insulin, the glucose, which comes from the foods you eat, can’t be converted into energy.
There’s no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed and even prevented.
Swope Health launched an innovative program focusing on diabetes prevention and treatment in 2018. The program, piloted at Swope Health Independence, provided a diabetes checklist used with every patient to look for early signs of diabetes-related complications. As the primary diabetes-related issues are kidney disease, blindness and amputations, patients were asked to complete lab tests to evaluate kidney function, have a vision screening, and receive a foot exam at least once a year.
The vision screening occurs on-site, during the patient’s regular visit, using a hand-held device that sends images to an optometrist for review. Patients don’t need to schedule a separate visit to an optometrist.
The focused diabetes checklist is now in use at all Swope Health clinics, said Dr. Naiomi Jamal, Chief Health Officer at Swope Health. In addition, if any uninsured patients have uncontrolled diabetes, Swope Health provides extra support through an assigned Nurse Care Manager.
The Nurse Care Manager checks in regularly with the patient, and provides support for any questions about medications, diet or exercise. In addition, the Nurse Care Manager identifies any issues that might serve as barriers to good health, including other medical needs, lack of access to fresh foods or transportation, and behavioral health challenges. Similar services are offered to Medicaid patients with uncontrolled diabetes through Swope Health’s Primary Care Medical Home program
“The Nurse Care Manager develops specific care plans with each patient,” Dr. Jamal said. “We help our patients set goals and achieve them.”
The program offers promising results in diabetes management: “We tend to have better outcomes with the personalized care of the Nurse Care Manager,” she said.
Diabetes affects more than 9 percent of the population, according to the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the federal government. It affects one in four people over age 65, and often individuals are unaware they have the disease. Left untreated, diabetes can cause serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, foot problems, dental disease and nerve damage.
Additionally, more than one in three adults in the U.S. have prediabetes – and most are likely unaware of it. Prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a serious condition when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Diabetes can be prevented or delayed through lifestyle changes like improving diet, increasing physical activity and stopping smoking.
The state of Missouri’s 2023 Diabetes Report shows that more than 537,000 Missouri residents, age 18 or older, had doctor-diagnosed diabetes in 2021. That’s about 11 percent of the state population. Based on national estimates of undiagnosed diabetes in 3.4 percent of adults, that means there are likely 160,000 Missourians with diabetes who don’t know it.
The report also shows that Jackson County is in the top 25 percent of counties statewide with diabetes.
What can you do for American Diabetes Day? Take a moment to check in with those you love and encourage them to learn about diabetes, through a doctor’s visit that includes a screening. If you are aware of your risk level, you can start to take action to prevent further risk.
Diabetes is often a risk factor for other diseases, including chronic kidney disease and heart disease. Managing your risk starts with being aware.
Call 816-923-5800 to make an appointment at Swope Health. We are here to help you prevent and manage health issues.