When more than half the state’s population has diabetes or is at risk for developing the chronic, eye-sight robbing condition, local health advocates are doing their part one county at a time to reverse the troubling diabetes epidemic in California.
And as part of a partnership between Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal Health Plan, the California Optometric Association (COA) and Clinica Sierra Vista, a Diabetes Clinic Day was held early in December in Fresno County to connect Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal patients with life-saving comprehensive diabetes care, including eye exams and diabetic education.
The effort aimed to ensure diabetic patients have at least annual contact with a medical provider, especially since the Central Valley is suffering some of the worst effects of the costly and deadly disease.
“While diabetes deaths and amputations are on the rise, we want our Central Valley community to know that the consequences are preventable and manageable,” said Reyna Villalobos, Director of Programs and Population Health at Clinica Sierra Vista.
According to health experts, in 2016, Fresno County had the highest rate of amputations per 100,000 residents among any county counted. The exploding rates of amputations related to diabetes has sounded the alarm among health experts to increase their efforts for important preventative service in Fresno County.
“We want our patients to see Clínica Sierra Vista as a long-term partner for their health care needs and as a trusted community health provider to manage their disease and help lower their risk for serious possible complications,” Villalobo said.
The cost of treating diabetes in California was $27 billion in 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association.
According to health experts, diabetes is of particular concern in the Latino community. Compared with non-Hispanic Whites, Latinos have twice the prevalence of diabetes and are twice as likely to die from their disease. Across the state, 36 percent of young adult Latinos are estimated to have prediabetes.
With studies showing that nearly one in 20 diabetes patients has advanced diabetic retinopathy and is at significant risk of blindness, is making diabetes a chief concern for California’s eye doctors.
“Optometrists are a crucial part of this initiative because annual comprehensive eye exams are not only essential for diabetic patients to preserve their vision, but also because visiting a doctor of optometry is often the first place where patients are diagnosed with the disease,” said Dr. Ranjeet S. Bajwa, president of COA. “Optometrists are seeing more vision impairment, blindness and worse outcomes for our patients as diabetes has grown to epidemic proportions in California. Optometrists are determined to change this deadly trend of diabetes by catching these complications early on to save our patients’ lives and sight.”
Over the last two years, the California Optometric Association and community health centers have partnered with Anthem Blue Cross Medi-Cal Health Plan on innovative outreach and care models in an effort to improve diabetes care for underserved Californians.
“Our collaboration with Clinica Sierra Vista and the California Optometric Association is helping us expand access to resources and support that foster greater awareness and improved health outcomes, and we welcome others to join us in this life-saving effort,” said Dr. Barsam Kasravi, Interim Anthem Blue Cross Medicaid President.
Fresno’s event on Dec. 1 was the latest in a series of Diabetes Clinic Days hosted by community health centers for diabetic patients served by Anthem Blue Cross of California, connecting members with life-saving comprehensive diabetes screenings, including eye exams.
“We are proud to strengthen our local efforts to save our patients’ lives and sight with the help of COA and Anthem Blue Cross.” Reyna Villalobos.