Our lead diabetes educator, Francine Grabowski, was recently published in the Courier Post.

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Last week, the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School released “2014 New Jersey State Report: Providing Access to Healthy Solutions — An Analysis of New Jersey’s Opportunities to Enhance Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes.”

Approximately 700,000 individuals live with the disease here, and many others are at risk for developing it, including children. New Jersey ranks No. 3 in the nation for obesity among low-income children ages 2 to 5, of whom 16.6 percent are obese. In Camden County, the prevalence of obesity is 27.5 percent.

These children are at greater risk of receiving a diabetes diagnosis in their future. This new report is a welcome look at how government and community agencies can come together to implement health care and prevention strategies that address type 2 diabetes in New Jersey.

Government and community-based organizations were interviewed over 18 months to obtain information for inclusion in the report. On Thursday, individuals from those organizations attended the New Jersey Diabetes Leadership Forum at the Trenton War Memorial to discuss the report’s findings and possible ways to work together to make an impact and turn the tide of diabetes in our state.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney spoke during the forum on the need for collaboration as well as policy change to create healthier communities. Christene Dewitt-Parker, coordinator for school health at the New Jersey Department of Education, spoke about the role of our schools and the need to help students prevent and manage diabetes.

There were many other guest speakers who provided great insights and promise in the area of preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

I spoke on the importance of access to diabetes self-management education, or DSME, as a way to improve a person’s ability to manage their diabetes. Coverage for DSME is restricted. Medicare covers DSME but limits the number of visits. Private insurance covers DSME, often with prohibitive copays. And Medicaid does not pay for DSME.

In addition, despite the solid evidence on the benefit of structured lifestyle change for pre-diabetes by the Diabetes Prevention Program, it is not a covered condition. With coverage for pre-diabetes, we can significantly decrease the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the future with statewide access to the lifestyle training of the Diabetes Prevention Program.

The report on New Jersey’s type 2 diabetes issues provides several recommendations, including:

• Making fruits and vegetables affordable to people in many of our low-income communities;

• Helping them gain access to healthy foods in the community and at school; making communities conducive to healthy, active living;

• Providing access to diabetes prevention and management services;

• Enhancing care coordination for Medicaid/Family Care enrollees.

Actions taken around these recommendations can truly make a difference in our state and our community. It is time for us to step up our efforts in preventing and managing diabetes in New Jersey, and it starts right here in our community.

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