This year’s summit brought together health care leaders, policymakers and technology startups to discuss strategies for diabetes prevention and treatment. Here are four takeaways from the summit.
1. A push for healthy diet change.
A high-fat diet is frequently cited as the primary cause of type 2 diabetes. Robert H. Lustig, keynote speaker and Professor, Department of Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco, helped debunk this myth. The real culprit? Sugar and processed foods. Reducing these items in our diets is one of the most important factors in preventing and treating type 2 diabetes, and requires both behavioral and policy change.
In his remarks, Dr. Frank highlighted EmblemHealth’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which has successfully facilitated healthy behavior change in many communities across New York City. Recognized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the program follows the CDC’s curriculum to prevent and manage diabetes by teaching nutrition, fitness and stress management.
2. Holistic, comprehensive education is needed.
Only a small number of physicians are receiving nutritional training. We don’t standardize nutritional education in schools. Even in our correctional system, homeless shelters and senior centers, processed foods are the norm and the importance of healthy diets is often overlooked.
To help prevent diabetes, the panelists called for the implementation of scalable nutrition education across the city, including integrating nutrition-based education in primary schools. Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President, advocated for mandatory nutritional education for physicians. “The goal is not to live with diabetes, but to reverse it,” he said. “Doctors need to work with patients on proactive plans, not just treat symptoms.”
3. Coordinated care models focused on community support.
“Collective impact” was the name of the game at this year’s summit. Coordinated care and peer support are instrumental in fighting the diabetes crisis. Models like EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care and AdvantageCare Physicians’ partnership offer holistic care and resources for preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, said Dr. Frank.
EmblemHealth’s Diabetes Prevention Program is led in a group setting, where participants are encouraged to support one another through their year-long journey to better health. At co-located sites, AdvantageCare Physicians’ care team—including doctors, nurses, medical assistants and patient service representatives—provide support and coordinated care to patients enrolled in EmblemHealth’s program. This high-touch, personal approach is often missing in traditional diabetes management, Dr. Frank noted. When asked whether health insurers should provide fitness benefits to their members to support healthy lifestyles, Dr. Frank praised EmblemHealth’s programs, including discounts on gym memberships and free fitness classes led by lifestyle coaches at EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care.
4. Technology and innovation for treatment.
It’s not breaking news that advancements in technology are changing the way we live our lives. Some of the most exciting technological innovations, however, are happening in the field of medical delivery. Innovations brought to light at this year’s summit included an artificial pancreas worn to help stabilize sugar levels, virtual diabetes education, and stem cell research shown to rejuvenate insulin production.
As we continue to strive towards a healthier New York, this year’s summit inspired dialogue on reducing the burden of diabetes on our city. Panelist Dr. Jill Crandall, Professor, Department of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine summed it up best: “there is no ‘one size fits all’ treatment plan.”
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