CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Diabetes Bus, a mobile classroom for diabetes patients who have difficulty getting health services for their conditions, will expand its reach statewide as the result of a grant by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (BCBSNC Foundation).
The BCBSNC Foundation's $660,000, five-year grant to the nonprofit Diabetes Management Solutions (DMS) will enable the group to continue and expand its Diabetes Bus - Reaching Communities Project. The program is designed to reach underserved populations in rural areas of our state, including people who face cost or travel barriers to reaching hospital-based programs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death and the third most costly disease in the United States. In North Carolina, diabetes prevalence is higher than the national average, and diabetes management programs do not exist in many of the hometowns and communities that make up our state.
In response, DMS launched the Reaching Communities Project in 2004, as a two-year pilot program funded by the BCBSNC Foundation, focused specifically on reaching outlying communities located twenty miles from existing diabetes services in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. The program offered education and diabetes management to patients from the Diabetes Bus.
Throughout the two years, more than 300 patients attended free diabetes self-management classes led by Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs). Participants represented 86 North Carolina hometowns, all of which had no other free-diabetes classes available, with most having no local diabetes programs at all. Eighty-four percent of attendees returned for subsequent visits, contributing to much of the program’s success.
"In participants with uncontrolled diabetes, we saw HbA1c levels drop by an average of 2.6 percent. That's an average blood sugar drop of 185 points," said the program's Executive Director, Kim Hanchette. "Our research associated a one percent drop in HbA1c levels with an annual health care cost reduction of $800, and a 14 percent decrease in total mortality."
"The two-year pilot program has produced impressive results," said Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. "We are pleased to increase our investment into the next five years, allowing the program to expand its reach to underserved areas across the state."
The Reaching Communities Project is a full-service management program coordinating care, and providing support, education and follow-up with medical office staff. The partnership plays a critical role in ensuring diabetes patients receive quality medical care, up-to-date information and the emotional support they need to manage their disease—in a location convenient for both the patient and their physician. Many physician offices are now providing space and offering the program weekly at their offices, enabling greater convenience and comfort for diabetes patients. Like many chronic diseases, diabetes is complicated to control, as patients are oftentimes required to manage multiple medications, nutrition and activity, as well as acute and chronic complications.
As a result of the new grant, the Reaching Communities Project will be expanding its outreach to additional North Carolina communities. Currently, the program facilitates free diabetes education programs in Wake Forest, Louisburg, Clayton and Mount Olive, with targeted statewide expansion taking place throughout the next five years.
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About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation:
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a separate, independent, private, charitable foundation that provides financial support to improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians. This mission is achieved through programs and services funded in response to grant requests, as well as through funding for programs supporting needs identified by the BCBSNC Foundation. Since its inception in November 2000, the BCBSNC Foundation has awarded more than $30 million in grants to organizations throughout the state. In addition to its grant program, the BCBSNC Foundation supports several signature programs. These programs include Be Active KidsSM, an award-winning program that teaches preschool children about nutrition and physical activity; and Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit Excellence, two-day intensive training sessions offered free of charge to all North Carolina nonprofits. Additional information about the BCBSNC Foundation’s signature programs and grant requirements, as well as a list of all grants awarded can be found on our website at