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Grant to bring diabetes prevention to high-risk in Cambria Heights

An insulin pump is often used by those who have diabetes.
TimesLedger Newspapers

EmblemHealth last week announced a partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will allow the non-profit insurance company to provide a diabetes-prevention program for some of its members in Cambria Heights.

According to the city Department of Health’s 2010 Community Health Survey, 8.5 percent of Queens residents, adjusted for age, have been told by a health professional they had diabetes.

While neither the DOH nor Emblem had figures specific to Cambria Heights, Dr. Eliza Ng, Emblem’s senior medical director, said the neighborhood was chosen to host the program due to a large at-risk population for type-2 diabetes, a condition of low insulin in the body.

Those most at risk include blacks and Hispanics over 45 who have had parents or siblings with either pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar that can lead to diabetes within a few years.

Ng said that in addition to the neighborhood’s ethnic/racial demographics, Cambria Heights also represented an area where Emblem’s members do not get tested as much as they should.

Ng said finding “concentrations and communities within the New York area that really have high unmet needs” was one of the major deciding factors in choosing to place the program in Cambria Heights as well as another in Harlem.

“Gaps in care are really a proxy for access to care and how healthy a population is,” she said. “Active enrollment and engagement is an essential component to the success of the program.”

Lifestyle decisions also play a contributing factor, and that is why the program is centered around losing weight, choosing healthier foods, increasing physical activity and learning strategies for maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Ng said just a 5 percent to 10 percent drop in weight can dramatically decrease a person’s blood pressure and diabetic risk.

When the program rolls out some time in 2013, groups of eight to 10 people will meet once a week with a health coach during the first month, and then about once a month for the remainder of one year, Ng said.

The doctor added it could take up to two years to gauge the program’s success.

The CDC estimates that if successful, the national implementation of the prevention program could save $5.7 billion in health care costs and prevent 885,000 cases of type-2 diabetes in the next 25 years.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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