Marin Community Clinics (MCC) and LIFT-Levántate announced preliminary results of a special effort to combat diabetes among Marin’s low income population.
Diabetes is a serious chronic disease that if left untreated can result in blindness, nerve damage requiring amputation, kidney failure and even death. These complications are largely preventable with lifestyle changes and adherence to medication.
Latinos, African-Americans and seniors are among those that are the highest risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. For example, one out of every two Latino children is projected to develop the disease in their lifetime.
“In Marin, our low-income residents face alarmingly escalating rates because of lack of access to affordable, healthy food and preventive health care,” reported Mitesh Popat, MD, MPH, MCC’s Chief Medical Officer.
“Given the high rate of diabetes among the communities we serve and the struggle that many people go through to make the necessary lifestyle changes, we decided that a special effort was necessary,” continued Popat.
The collaborative MCC and LIFT-Levántate Diabetes Program focuses on community-based prevention, early identification through screenings, easy access to culturally-sensitive care and follow-up for adults and children 12 years and older.
Screenings held at Health Hubs identify high percentage at risk
“The early stage of diabetes has no visible symptoms, so screening is key,” reported Popat. “If someone is obese, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of diabetes, they are high risk. Unfortunately, many community members aren’t aware of these risk factors. They need accessible and affordable screening as well as education.”
MCC patients who are high risk for diabetes are screened by the MCC/LIFT health team as part of their regular checkups.
In order to reach more community members, screenings and education are offered on a monthly basis at MCC’s and LIFT’s weekly Community Health Hubs, held at MCC clinics in Novato and San Rafael. Approximately 600 individuals have been screened for diabetes since the April 2013 inception of the Health Hubs, with over 60% percent determined to be pre-diabetic or diabetic.
For the month of November, in recognition of Worlds Diabetes Month, diabetes screenings (normally offered on a monthly basis), will be offered every week.
The Novato Health Hub is held every Thursday at Marin Community Clinics’ Novato Clinic (6100 Redwood Blvd.), from 3pm to 6 pm, other than Thanksgiving Day.
The San Rafael Health Hub is held every Wednesday at Marin Community Clinics’ San Rafael clinic (3110 Kerner Blvd.) from 3pm to 6 pm, including the day prior to Thanksgiving. All Health Hub activities are free and open to the general public, with priority given to low-income and uninsured patients. No reservations are necessary.
Participants who are determined to be pre-diabetic or diabetic are referred to the MCC/LIFT Diabetes Program.
Multicultural/Multilingual Diabetes Program focuses on lifestyle changes and support
“Many of our clients live in a culture of poverty,” reported Richard Waxman, LIFT-Levántate’s executive director. “This can create understandable barriers to adopting the routine lifestyle changes that are essential to managing diabetes, so we do more than just provide classroom education.”
“We reach out to prospective participants – we don’t wait until they come to us with symptoms,” he continued. “LIFT-Levántate’s community health outreach workers (promotores) work with schools, community centers, and churches to promote health screenings, Health Hubs and the Diabetes Program.”
The collaborative Diabetes Program, which was launched in April at MCC’s San Rafael Clinic, is free and held on a weekly basis.
Waxman explained that when people join the Diabetes Program, they are getting much more than traditional diabetes classroom education.
“We focus on self-care, which has been proven to be the most successful way for people to manage diabetes, and how the entire family needs to change its lifestyle to support the patient,” he said.
In addition to educating participants about the disease, the LIFT/MCC Community Diabetes Team (bilingual health educators, nurse and social worker) helps participants learn new ways to shop for and cook healthier food; assists with creating individualized exercise programs; helps reduce stress; and, provides support structures. The team also screens for depression and anxiety, which are common among diabetics.
Social support and family involvement play a critical role as well, according to Waxman. “We recognized early on that there are a lot of social and family dynamics in play, so we created a support group led by a professional social worker,” he explained. “Participants share what has worked with them and we are able to unravel family issues that get in the way.”
Positive results to date
“We are already making a difference in the lives of people who might not otherwise get access to care, reported Popat and Waxman.
“In just four months of the joint program, we are already seeing people improve their lifestyles – eating healthier food, reducing their sugar intake, losing weight and exercising more,” they explained. “They are feeling less isolated and are more motivated to change. Patients are slowing the progression of the disease – some are actually reversing their diabetes and entire families are making positive changes.”
Waxman and Popat report that the program, which is currently offered at MCC’s San Rafael Clinic, will soon expand to MCC’s Novato location.
For more information about the Health Hubs, contact LIFT-Levántate at 415-507-1564 For information about the MCC/LIFT Diabetes Program contact MCC at 415-448-1500.