Innovative Program Offers People with Diabetes the Power to Improve their Own Health


Under a unique collaboration, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), with support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and WellPoint, are—for the first time—bringing a proven and affordable face-to-face and online support program to help people manage their type 2 diabetes.

Today, nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, a chronic condition that is disproportionately expensive, especially when there are complications. In 2002, the per-capita cost of healthcare for a person with diabetes was $13,243, compared with $2,560 for someone without diabetes.

Although diabetes support programs are not new, the collaboration between NCOA, WellPoint, YMCA, and OASIS is unique in that it gives patients easy access to a program that has been proven to change lives. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation funding supports the coordination of this multi-partner project, as well as the training and mentoring of YMCA and OASIS staff to provide the diabetes education and support in the community and online.

“Managing diabetes can be a daunting task, and most people receive little or no education,” said Mark B. McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Health Care Value and Innovation program at Brookings and former administrator of the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Diabetes education has usually been taught by health professionals in clinical settings. With the growing rates of diabetes, and with new and more effective ways to reach people in the community, that model needs to change.”

The NCOA-WellPoint collaboration creates a new model in which providers, community organizations, and insurance companies work together to give people with diabetes the tools they need to better manage their condition. Originally developed and tested at Stanford University as the Diabetes Self-Management Program (DSMP), Better Choices, Better Health-Diabetes is an evidence-based program that was scientifically proven to help individuals manage their diabetes and improve their health.

The six-week workshop is taught by trained peer leaders, many of whom have diabetes themselves and easily accessible online or through an in-person workshop. Together, workshop participants learn about their condition and set realistic and measurable goals to improve health. They discover tips and tools to help them monitor their blood sugar, food, medication, and exercise; create and track a weekly action plan; discuss problems they’re facing; and celebrate successes. All information provided meets guidelines from the American Diabetes Association and American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Under the collaboration, both in-person and online workshops are available to those with type 2 diabetes. OASIS is conducting in-person workshops in Indianapolis and St. Louis, and the YMCA is offering it to participants in Atlanta.

“There are many great diabetes programs out there in individual communities, but we have yet to find a way to scale a successful community-based diabetes management program that health insurers can offer affordably to their members,” said James Firman, NCOA president and CEO. “We believe we have found the right program and an integrated approach—now our charge is to prove it.”

Workshop participants may also be able to participate in a research study of the pilot program, which will determine if participants see real improvement in their health. Measurements of success will be monitored by lab tests of HbA1c results, self-reported questionnaires based on how members feel, and/or claims data that can track members’ use of healthcare services and their costs.

“It is possible for some people to reverse type 2 diabetes, or improve their quality of life through changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle,” said Dr. Sam Nussbaum, chief medical officer and executive vice president for WellPoint. “We are pleased to support these efforts by participating in the Better Choices, Better Health program and collaborating with local and national organizations to make a meaningful impact on the health of our members and communities.”

The results may help health plans determine if they should offer the program as a standard benefit. Stanford and HealthCore, WellPoint’s health outcomes and clinical research affiliate, are leading the evaluation efforts.

“We are partners in this project because it is figuring out how to open the door for community-based organizations to be formally contracted and reimbursed by health plans to provide effective diabetes education to patients—especially heavily affected seniors—in new ways,” said John L. Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “We see it as the future of healthcare—a model where patients, providers, community organizations, and insurers work together to scale high-quality care, reduce costs, and improve outcomes for people with diabetes.”

Persons with type 2 diabetes that are interested in signing up for an online workshop can do so by visiting To sign up for an in-person workshop or for general inquiries, call 866.553.1282.

Source: WellPoint