Community-based diabetes efforts should involve retail pharmacies

Pharmacists provide many essential services to prevent, manage chronic disease

The YMCA is offering a demonstration project to show that its YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program — part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's broader National Diabetes Prevention Program — can lower the incidence of Type 2 diabetes and reduce medical costs incurred by Medicare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation is funding the project, whereby YMCAs in 17 communities that deliver the program will offer it at no cost to 10,000 Medicare enrollees over the next three years, and the YMCA expects it to save Medicare $4.2 million over three years and $53 million over six years.

It's been said that, "It takes a village to raise a child," and because chronic disease is an issue that affects communities as a whole - not just individuals - it would make sense for community-based organizations to target a growing national health crisis like the diabetes epidemic. According to the American Diabetes Association, which is collaborating with the YMCA on the program, 25.8 million people in the United States have diabetes, as well as 79 million with prediabetes.

While the YMCA is not directly involved with any retail pharmacies in the program, its third-party administrator is the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance, an initiative sponsored by UnitedHealth Group, which does work with retail pharmacies. For example, in November 2012, Rite Aid announced the rollout of a diabetes-control program at 25 stores in Cleveland, allowing enrollees to connect with pharmacists trained in diabetes care and medication therapy management to receive private, one-on-one consultations providing education and support. One of the 17 communities where the YMCA is piloting the program also happens to be Cleveland.

This may offer a glimpse of what retail pharmacies could do when it comes to community-based efforts to combat diabetes. "If retail drug stores are screening people for diabetes, they could refer people to the YMCA's diabetes-prevention program," YMCA spokeswoman Kelly Kennai told Drug Store News.

But pharmacy retailers do a lot more than screening: They offer MTM, disease-state management and education. And those with loyalty card programs tied to health and wellness — such as Rite Aid's Wellness+ for Diabetes and CVS' ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes — provide a carrot for patients in addition to the stick they have to put in their hand in the form of special offers on products, education and more. In addition, many retailers, such as supermarket operator Ahold USA, have trained their pharmacists to be diabetes specialists.

Retail pharmacists are a key component of the nation's healthcare system and widely regarded as the most accessible healthcare professionals. There are no community pharmacies without "community," and there's little reason why they shouldn't be involved in broader efforts to combat diabetes.

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