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Better health doesn’t just happen at Walgreens, it happens through Walgreens

BY Michael Johnsen

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 [2010] 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.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

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Pharmacists, retail clinicians move to front lines of health care

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The idea of pharmacists as the most accessible healthcare professionals isn’t just some hokey marketing gimmick: It’s a readily observable fact, and one that will become increasingly important as retail pharmacies and retail clinics play a greater role on the front lines of care.

(THE NEWS: HHS partners with drug store chains to underscore Medicare benefits to seniors. For the full story, click here.)

Pharmacists’ and retail clinicians’ accessibility is helping make the pharmacy a key source of health-and-wellness education, allowing customers to find ways to take better care of themselves and save money. It also makes efforts by such health authorities as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to communicate with the public faster and more effective.

Everything from education to vaccinations to health screenings are helping to shift many of the services traditionally found in doctors’ offices — and requiring an appointment as a result — to the retail level and turning them into just another thing to get at the drug store on the way home from work. That, in turn, is helping to increase the accessibility and affordability of preventive care, an essential component to building a healthier society, and taking a lot of the burden off physicians.

The ability of pharmacists to help seniors find savings in the "doughnut hole" coverage gap — a quirk in the Medicare prescription drug program in which patients become responsible for the entire cost of prescription drug therapies after spending reaches a certain level until they reach a "catastrophic coverage" threshold — is especially important. According to a study earlier this year, beneficiaries in the coverage gap were 57% more likely to discontinue cardiovascular medications than those with consistent drug coverage.

A major shift is under way in the U.S. healthcare system, one in which such basic services as screenings and vaccinations are becoming cheaper and more available at places like retail clinics and retail pharmacies. Given concerns over costs and accessibility, not to mention disease epidemics like pertussis and Type 2 diabetes, that’s an advantage for everyone.

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Spilman named lead independent director for Harris Teeter’s board

BY Allison Cerra

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Harris Teeter has appointed a lead independent director for its board.

Harris Teeter’s board — which recently approved an amendment to the company’s bylaws to permit such a role — said that Robert Spilman Jr. would serve as lead independent director. Spilman, who has been on the retailer’s board since 2002, will preside at the executive sessions of nonmanagement and independent directors, serve as the principal liaison between the chairman of the board and the independent directors, as well as consult with the chairman of the board regarding information to be sent to the board, meeting agendas and establishing meeting schedules.

Spilman will continue to serve as chairman of the board’s corporate governance and nominating committee.

In related news, Harris Teeter’s board declared a quarterly dividend of 14 cents per share to be paid on Oct. 1 to shareholders of record on Sept. 7.

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