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Better Diabetes Care for the Vulnerable

 by Danielle Maestretti

Tags: Science and Technology, health, diabetes, health care, New America Media,

Type-2 diabetes has reached epidemic levels in the United States and is particularly destructive in low-income and immigrant communities where, according to a New American Media report, language and education barriers affect “the patient’s ability to read food labels, track blood sugar levels, assess insulin amounts, record meal schedules and communicate with clinicians.”

A new program in San Francisco helps low-income and immigrant patients manage their diabetes over the telephone. Participants who enroll in the project—Improving Diabetes Efforts Across Language and Literacy (IDEALL)—aim to better control the disease and its associated health problems by receiving weekly phone calls from an automated telephone support system. Each call is delivered in the patient’s native language (English, Spanish, or Cantonese), and depending on his or her responses, the system generates information “regarding issues ranging from symptoms and taking prescribed medications to diet, physical activity, and self-monitoring of blood sugar.” If necessary, a nurse calls back for a “live” chat.

Dr. Dean Schillinger, director of San Francisco General Hospital’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, which runs the project, told New America Media: “We were really impressed that diabetes patients with limited literacy and limited English proficiency, who many health care workers consider to be ‘hard to reach,’ were the most likely to use this communication tool. . . . We found that better communication between a public health care system and the vulnerable populations they serve yielded concrete benefits.”

It looks like San Francisco wants to expand the program, and not a moment too soon: The University of California at San Francisco estimates that 3 million Californians—about 1 in 10 of the state’s residents—have the disease.

Source: New America Media