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Hispanic Health News

National Council of La Raza Embarks On Unique Study of Diabetes Management in Latino Seniors

In a joint effort to improve the health of Hispanic seniors with type 2 diabetes, Humana and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) have launched a study to test the “promotores de salud” – or, community health worker – approach to help this patient population better manage their disease to improve their health and well being.

Diabetes is a serious health problem among Hispanics in the U.S. More than 2.5 million Hispanic adults age 20 and older have been diagnosed with the disease, and among seniors age 65 and up, Hispanics are disproportionately affected.

If not properly managed, diabetes can lead to serious and costly complications such as amputation, stroke, blindness and even premature death. The burden caused by this diagnosis can be greater among Hispanics due to numerous factors, including poor self-management of the disease, and barriers to high-quality care. Social and peer support are important strategies in self-management education.

“There is evidence that community health workers can effectively engage, educate, and activate individuals with chronic diseases in ways that the formal health system cannot,” said Dr. George Smith, president of Humana Senior Products in Texas. “This one-year pilot program will study how interventions from community health workers may better serve and support Hispanic seniors who have type 2 diabetes, and allow us to apply best practices to reach even more patients.”

“Among the Latino population, access to health education and overall health care is our community’s greatest barrier toward fighting diabetes,” said Dr. Maria E. Rosa, Vice President, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR. “We are hopeful that the promotores approach will break down these barriers to educate and help Latinos with diabetes better manage their disease.”

Through this intervention, participants will learn how to incorporate nutritional management and physical activity into their lifestyles; how to use medications safely and for maximum therapeutic effectiveness; how to monitor and interpret blood glucose and other measures to enable self-management decision making; how to prevent, detect, and treat acute and chronic complications; how to develop strategies to address psychosocial issues and concerns; and, how to develop strategies to promote health and behavior changes.

This project will pilot test a promotores-driven approach to diabetes management and self-care among 100 Hispanic seniors with type 2 diabetes who are members of the Mexican American Unity Council (MAUC), a community-based organization and NCLR affiliate. About half of the participants are Humana Medicare Advantage members.

“Humana looks to find ways to engage our members to improve their ability to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, especially among populations where disparity issues exist. We hope that the community health worker model proves to be something we can incorporate in the future,” said George A. Andrews, M.D., Corporate Chief of Quality, Health Guidance Organization, Humana.

With the participation of the promotores, MAUC staff and NCLR, measures on diabetes self-management knowledge, intention to change self-management behavior and clinical outcomes will be obtained from participants and evaluated by the NCLR California State University, Long Beach Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training (NCLR-CSULB Center). Study results are expected by late fall.

San Antonio was selected as the target community for the intervention based on previous research that identified disproportionate percentages of diabetics among Hispanic Humana Medicare members in the area, combined with NCLR and MAUC’s strong footprint in the community and ability to reach this population.