WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Even just a few years ago, this kind of collaboration between a healthcare group and a drug store around a comprehensive food nutrition education program probably wouldn't have happened. Truth be told, it really isn't happening today. And that's because Walgreens isn't a drug store. Walgreens is a health and daily living solutions store.
(THE NEWS: Walgreens teams with University of Chicago Medicine on South Side Food Rx initiative. For the full story, click here.)
And whenever you talk about Walgreens and its "health and daily living solutions" motto, it's usually with the customer in mind. But more and more, Walgreens has expanded the reach of that motto to incorporate healthcare groups both private and public, because health and daily living solutions don't just happen at a Walgreens location, they happen through a Walgreens location.
More important than the transformation happening across Walgreens that is enabling such partnerships as this is the potential impact these partnerships will have on the community. According to the Institute for Alternative Futures' diabetes model estimates for the Chicago metropolitan statistical area, people living with diabetes (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) will increase by 46% by 2025 to 1.7 million people from a 2010 base of 1.1 million. The resulting medical and societal cost of diabetes will be $15.9 billion, a 54% increase from 2010.
Here is how the IAF projections break down across the Chicago MSA:
Number of people with prediabetes in 2010 totaled 2.5 million; in 2025, that will reach 2.6 million;
Diagnosed diabetes cases in 2010 totaled 711,800; in 2025, that will reach 1.2 million;
Undiagnosed diabetes cases in 2010 totaled 420,800; in 2025, that will reach 449,100;
Visual impairment associated with diabetes totaled 128,800 in 2010; in 2025, that will reach 207,300; and
Annual deaths attributable to diabetes totaled 10,340 in 2010; in 2025, that will reach 13,740.
"If 50% of people with prediabetes successfully made these lifestyle changes, [including modest weight loss and increase in regular physical activity], it could reduce the number of new cases of diabetes in the Chicago MSA by about 10,400 a year," the IAF said. "Between  and 2025, that would be a reduction of about 135,600 people with diabetes with a cumulative savings of about $8.6 billion."
IAF continued: "Halting the 'twin epidemics' of diabetes and obesity will require fundamental change in all segments of society, including greater access to opportunities for physical activity in our schools, workplaces and communities, and a signficant shift in the American diet away from sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats and toward more fruits and vegetables."
Sound familiar? Because that's what Walgreens and other retailers are enabling when they extend their "fresh" programs into urban areas where there just aren't that many fruit and vegetable options. That's what Walgreens is enabling when it encourages and rewards its patient base to exercise more as part of its "Walk with Walgreens" program. And that's what Walgreens and the University of Chicago Medicine are enabling when they partner on a nutrition education program.
If half of people with prediabetes successfully make lifestyle changes because of programs like this, that will be 1,125 saved lives by 2025. And that's just in the Chicago MSA.
That's what makes this pretty important.
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