Guest Blog: Gretchen Taylor, Minnesota Department of Health, Tackling Diabetes in Minnesota

Guest Blog: Gretchen Taylor, Minnesota Department of Health, Tackling Diabetes in Minnesota

Diabetes is a serious and costly chronic disease affecting over 310,000 Minnesotans, with an annual cost to our state of about $3.14 billion. Based on national estimates, an additional 1.5 million Minnesota adults have prediabetes, which greatly increases their risk for developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Without intervention, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes are expected to develop the disease within five years.

If we are to avoid unsustainable costs to the health care system and society, we must focus on preventing diabetes here in Minnesota. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) offers a powerful solution. This program is based on a research study showing that making modest behavior changes helped participants lose five to seven percent of their body weight, which is just 10 to 14 pounds for a person weighing 200 pounds. These lifestyle changes reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent in people with prediabetes.

Taking Action in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is contracting with the Minnesota Health Action Group to engage employers and insurers in four communities to make the NDPP a covered benefit for employees. The Action Group will provide valuable support to participating communities by working to make the NDPP widely available and accessible to people at high risk for type 2 diabetes.

The Minnesota Department of Health is one of 21 states and large cities to receive funding from the CDC for a grant called, “State and Local Public Health Actions to Prevent Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease and Stroke (CDC-RFA-DP14-1422PPHF14).” The four-year funding started on September 30, 2015.

This grant supports local communities in improving health. The activities will build on current work to prevent and better manage obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, while focusing on reducing health disparities. With this funding, selected communities will engage in cross-cutting, creative approaches that can positively impact the health of Minnesota residents, especially those with the greatest health needs. Funds will support four Community Health Boards, including:

  • Minneapolis Health Department
  • Healthy Northland (Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis counties)
  • Des Moines Valley and Nobles (Cottonwood, Jackson and Nobles counties)
  • Partnership for Health (Becker, Clay, Wilken and Otter Tail counties)

A portion of the funds will support the MDH and contracted organizations to provide technical assistance to these communities.

The grant strategies fall into four categories:

  • Supporting environmental changes that improve access to healthy eating and increased physical activity.
  • Building support for healthy lifestyle change programs like the NDPP, especially for those at high risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
  • Improving the quality of health system care delivery for people with the highest hypertension and prediabetes disparities.
  • Linking clinical and community resources to support heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes prevention.

I am looking forward to working with The Action Group staff and employer members to tackle our state’s rapidly escalating prediabetes and diabetes epidemic, and to improving health and lowering health care costs for all Minnesotans.

Reference for diabetes costs:

Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2012. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care 36(4):1033-1046.