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Congressman Murtha Announces Support For A Comprehensive Approach To Fight Diabetes In Pennsylvania


Efforts to monitor and manage diabetes care and outcomes

JOHNSTOWN, Pa., Dec. 29, 2005 – At a news conference today, Congressman John Murtha announced a community diabetes initiative headed by the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute (UPDI) and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Congressman Murtha announced that the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute in partnership with communities throughout western Pennsylvania will begin efforts to help physicians and patients better manage diabetes. Based on a model of care that has been shown to improve outcomes for people living with chronic diseases like diabetes, efforts are underway to set up physician tracking systems and reminders, self-management programs and diabetes centers, including a center under construction at Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. Delphi Health Systems, Inc. will partner with UPDI and the community hospitals by providing diabetes management software to be used at the point of care.

“Diabetes has emerged as one of the most serious health problems in Pennsylvania, particularly in rural areas,” Congressman Murtha said. “Working together, doctors from the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute, the Conemaugh Health System and other community partners will create systems to improve outcomes for people in this region who are living with diabetes and for those at high risk for developing diabetes. It is our expectation that in the future these initiatives will serve as models that can be replicated throughout the United States and applied to our military. ”

Controlling the level of glucose in the blood is essential to preventing complications from diabetes.

“A critical laboratory value that will be tracked is known as an A1c test. The A1c level is a measure of the average amount of glucose in the blood over several months. Other important tests that will be monitored are blood pressure, cholesterol levels, foot and eye exams,” said Linda Siminerio, Ph.D., director of the UPDI.

Project leaders said they hoped to use the data to coordinate intervention programs, where they would work with doctors to get patients better care. The move comes as the number of people with diabetes continues to rise.

Efforts to track diabetes information have been underway at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and now the plan to support these efforts with community partners throughout the region is a reality. Diabetes tracking systems and programs will be offered through Memorial Medical Center, Uniontown Hospital, Highlands Hospital and Indiana Regional Medical Center. The ultimate goal is to create a registry to monitor and support the needs of people affected by diabetes.

Congressman Murtha also announced that the Diabetes Institute and The Conemaugh Health System’s Memorial Medical Center will be partnering to establish a Diabetes Wellness Center at Memorial’s Downtown Campus in Johnstown. The Center will also facilitate a comprehensive approach to screening for the prevention of diabetes complications such as retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, cardiovascular disease and lower extremity arterial disease.

“We are excited about the establishment of the diabetes clinic and the positive impact this overall program will have on people with diabetes and people at risk of getting diabetes,” said Scott Becker, CEO, Conemaugh Health System. “With the right education, management and care, people can lessen the effects of this potentially devastating disease and in many cases prevent it from happening in the first place.”

Loren Roth, M.D., senior vice president of quality care and chief medical officer at UPMC, said: “We deeply appreciate the support of Congressman Murtha who recognizes the physical toll of this disease, which affects so many citizens of Pennsylvania. This opportunity for collaboration between Conemaugh and UPMC allows us to draw on our combined strengths in patient care to ultimately ease the burdens associated with diabetes and improve the quality of the lives of so many citizens of this state.”

Eight percent of Pennsylvanians – 1.1 million people (720,500 diagnosed and 379,500 undiagnosed) – have diabetes and experts estimate that 1.5 million new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. In fact, newly released statistics from the CDC note that the incidence of diabetes has risen more than 14 percent in the past two years. Diabetes accounts for about $7.7 billion in total health care costs every year in Pennsylvania – and $132 billion nationwide. It is a leading cause of death, with 11,500 Pennsylvanians dying each year. Diabetes is also the leading cause of new blindness, end-stage renal disease, and non-traumatic amputations in Pennsylvania.

Nationally, diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death, according to the American Diabetes Association. Many people first become aware of the disease when confronted with one of its life-threatening complications such as heart disease, blindness, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease or circulatory problems leading to amputation. Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a substantially increased risk of acquiring the disorder later in life, and women who have diabetes before becoming pregnant face a higher risk of complications for themselves and their babies. One out of every 10 healthcare dollars is spent on diabetes and its complications.


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