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UPMC Announces Focus On Diabetes, An Ambitious Public Health Awareness Campaign In Western Pennsylvania

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PITTSBURGH, January 28, 2003 Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders will help the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) formally roll out Focus on Diabetes, an ambitious public health education and awareness campaign in western Pennsylvania when she speaks at a luncheon on Jan. 29. The audience will include UPMC's community outreach staff, board members and community leaders involved in this project.

Diabetes is a devastating disease, affecting some 17 million Americans, with an estimated 183,000, including some 60,000 who don't even know it, in western Pennsylvania, said Linda Siminerio, Ph.D., director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute. We know we must identify those with the disease and help them to manage it successfully, and that is our goal with this initiative.

People with diabetes are susceptible to a wide range of complications, including heart disease, stroke, neuropathy, amputations, blindness and kidney disease. Type 2 diabetes, once considered a disease of aging, is for the first time being seen in young adults and even teenagers, and the incidence of diabetes among people in their 30s has jumped 70 percent in the last 10 years. Some estimates report that diabetes costs the nation $54 billion annually in work loss, disability and premature deaths.

But within the last decade, research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere has established that people with diabetes can avoid or postpone the development of complications by controlling their blood sugar levels, and that at least some people at high risk for diabetes can avoid or postpone onset of the disease.

These studies demonstrate that diabetes does not have to run rampant. Improving public awareness about diabetes, educating people with diabetes about self-care, and providing excellent primary care for people with diabetes can have a real impact, reducing the incidence and severity of diabetes.

Diabetes has become one of the nations most important public health issues, and western Pennsylvania is seeing the affects of that first hand, said Jeffrey Romoff, president of UPMC. UPMC is in a unique position to shepherd public awareness on this issue, and send the message that diabetes in a dangerous disease worthy of everyone's attention.

The importance of this initiative is demonstrated in the fact the UPMC Board Committee on Community Health mandated that diabetes be a system-wide initiative. This will include each hospital offering and supporting American Diabetes Association-recognized self-management classes, Mr. Romoff said.

The goals of UPMC's Focus on Diabetes are to make the general public more aware of diabetes, its risk factors and its complications; to help at-risk individuals avoid getting diabetes by encouraging a more active lifestyle and more sensible eating; to identify people who may have diabetes and not know it, and to get them into treatment; to help people with diabetes, and the physicians who care for them, to manage the disease to minimize the risk of complications.

Major components of the initiative include:

  • A Board-mandated action plan by each of UPMC's community hospitals.
  • A UPMC diabetes awareness campaign, made possible by an educational grant by Eli Lilly, that will include informational on-air messages, screenings and printed materials.
  • Continue to promote diabetes self-management education efforts throughout western Pennsylvania through a series of screenings and programs.

An initiative by the Institute for Performance Improvement of UPMC Community Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Physicians that will communicate standards of care to more than 400 primary care physicians and monitor physician performance against those standards.

A diabetes management and education initiative will be promoted to health plan members. Following discharge from the hospital, members who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes will be contacted from UPMC Health Plan staff to ensure that they understand their discharge instructions, have filled their prescriptions and have arranged for follow-up. Participation in Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative worksite-based diabetes initiative involving 12 corporations, including UPMC.

Dr. Elders was the first African-American woman to hold the post of surgeon general of the Public Health Service. Now a distinguished professor of public health at the University of Arkansas, she was confirmed as surgeon general on Sep. 7, 1993 and served until she resigned on Dec. 31, 1994.

Dr. Elders first joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas Medical School in 1978 as a professor of pediatrics and received board certification as a pediatric endocrinologist. She was appointed director of the Arkansas Department of Health in October 1987 and served in that capacity until being named surgeon general in 1993.