New Orleans Health Department in partnership with New Orleans East Hospital
Tools for Healthy Lifestyles: Addressing underutilization of resources for Diabetes management and associated risk factors in New Orleans through technology
Diabetes and its associated health complications have a significant impact on people, families and communities, and that impact is rapidly growing. In Orleans Parish, approximately 10.3% of adults 18 and older have been diagnosed with diabetes, higher than the national rate of 8.5% (USDSS, CDC, 2016). In addition to high prevalence rates, there are many New Orleanians who are at increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. 2017 U.S. Census estimates show large percentages of the population are 45 years of age or older (39%), identify as persons of color (approximately 70%), have a poor diet (22% food insecure), lack exercise (24% physically inactive) or are overweight (30% obese) -- all risk factors that increase the chances of being diagnosed.
There is currently no cure for diabetes, and the consequences of not managing this condition could lead to severe health complications and loss of life – making access to comprehensive care critical. According to the National Institute of Health, when compared with those without the disease, diabetics are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke—two of the four leading causes of death in Orleans Parish, with diabetes itself being the tenth leading cause of death (CDC Wonder).
Luckily, there are many local assets that may be utilized to limit the impact of diabetes and to assist with chronic management. In addition to increased access to care through Medicaid Expansion, there is an existing healthcare infrastructure for specialized diabetes and nutrition services in New Orleans. Certified diabetes centers at University Medical Center New Orleans and New Orleans East Hospital provide team-based comprehensive care and support to those who are at risk for developing the condition as well as those already living with the disease. Most often after a referral is made, teams of healthcare professionals (including registered dieticians, certified diabetes nurse educators, and clinical pharmacists) work collaboratively with patients’ primary care physicians to manage their diabetes or risk, offering built-in coordination of care for all patients.
Although these specialized diabetes services are available, many residents who are referred to these certified centers are not utilizing the services or attend once and only return once their symptoms worsen. Providers find that many patients are overwhelmed by the initial diagnosis and the critical lifestyle changes and clinical care maintenance required to effectively manage the disease; many patients do not initially see the value in diabetes and nutritional education services until after complications have developed. Furthermore, other factors such as poverty status and income, health literacy, unsafe environments, and transportation challenges, among others, can also create barriers to diabetes management.
Our Health Innovation Challenge is to develop a digital solution that will increase utilization of specialized diabetes services to ensure that all diabetic residents – or those who are at risk of the disease – can effectively manage their diabetes to experience improved health outcomes and quality of life. The digital solution should support a comprehensive approach to diabetes management by encouraging the utilization of specialty services, but also empowering patients to take their care into their own hands when outside of a medical setting. The solution should be easily accessed and used, intuitive, and designed with the target population in mind.
Desired characteristics of the proposed digital solution could assist with diabetes management by facilitating:
The winner of the “Diabetes Management” Challenge will tour the newly renovated New Orleans East Hospital facility. The winning team will also have the opportunity to meet with Senior Executives from both New Orleans East Hospital and the New Orleans Health Department, to discuss matters such as potential improvements to, and/or the implementation of the winning solution within local patient populations. Upon determination of implementation potential, New Orleans East Hospital and the New Orleans Health Department will promote the winning team’s technology through multiple marketing and communication channels. The winning team may also be eligible to receive in-kind prizes, such as free co-working space, a spot within a startup accelerator program, startup business services, and more items, subject to availability.