July is not National Diabetes Month — November is — but a new guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amplifies the need for year-round awareness and diligence on diabetes prevention. It also highlights the essential role pharmacists play in diabetes prevention and the broader role they can play with expanded pharmacy services to manage chronic conditions like diabetes.
The guide, “Rx for the National Diabetes Prevention Program,” provides a road map for pharmacists to help prevent new cases of type 2 diabetes among patients at high risk. The importance of preventing and diagnosing type 2 diabetes is paramount as it accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases. There are about 30 million people in the United States with the condition. Twenty-three million are diagnosed, and 7 million are not aware they have the condition. Thirty-three percent of adults have prediabetes.
Community pharmacists are the logical choice to help patients manage diabetes, yet they are an often underutilized resource, despite their accessibility and the trust Americans have in them. Most Americans (89 percent) live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy. Ninety percent of Americans say that pharmacies are easy to access, and 82 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of their pharmacists.
Pharmacists’ education empowers them to do more to improve patient health and quality of life, which is why voters support Medicare enrollees being able to receive newer services from their pharmacists. In fact, 81 percent of voters support pharmacists being able to help Medicare patients with managing illnesses like diabetes, and 82 percent said they are likely to support a congressional candidate who works on securing that help in managing illnesses like diabetes.
Pharmacies, because of their integration in communities across the country — both rural and urban — are great access points to reach and educate patients to increase awareness about prediabetes and diabetes prevention.
Pharmacists are in a pivotal position to better serve the community — both as trusted and accessible health care providers and as proactive and engaged members of the communities where they work and live. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ “2017 Chain Pharmacy Community Engagement Report” found that beyond the daily work of health care delivery in their neighborhoods, pharmacies actively support their communities. NACDS chain members reported their total annual community giving at nearly $630 million, and their employees volunteered for more than 1.5 million hours. Notably, three priority initiatives among NACDS members emerged from the report, which included diabetes prevention, in addition to access to affordable medications and opioid abuse prevention.
Diabetes, unlike many other serious conditions, can be successfully managed through physical activity, diet and the appropriate use of insulin and other medications to control blood sugar levels. Two of the central areas where pharmacies and pharmacists have the greatest impact in diabetes are medication management and behavior change programs to improve eating habits and increase physical activity. Beyond these critical factors, pharmacists are also key in working with patients on the lifelong management of diabetes.
Pharmacists actively help patients in addressing diabetes from diabetes management and medication planning to pre-diabetes diagnosis and prevention. These combined efforts by pharmacists are essential for managing this mostly preventable disease.
The prevention and management of diabetes require constant focus, and community pharmacists are ideal partners in that important work.
Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, serves as president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
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