CVS Health: National Diabetes Awareness Month

By Dr. Dan Knecht, VP of Health Strategy & Innovation at CVS Health

The Importance of Bringing Diabetes Care into the Community

1.5 million: That’s the number of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes each year. $327 billion: That was the total cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2017.[1]

These are big numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story. In addition to my day job as Vice President of Health Strategy and Innovation at CVS Health, I also practice as a physician at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City. During my weekend rotations, I see firsthand the very real and negative impacts of uncontrolled diabetes on my patients. Diabetes can cause vision loss, kidney failure and neuropathic pain, in addition to accelerating and worsening cardiovascular disease.

Thankfully, the news is not all bad. As the number of people diagnosed with diabetes is rising, so are the resources and treatment options available to them.

CVS Health recently partnered with Morning Consult to better understand the needs of people living with diabetes and the providers who deliver diabetes care. What we heard from patients and doctors is a desire to:

  • Expand access to local care
  • Better manage and predict out-of-pocket costs
  • Provide additional lifestyle support in the form of nutrition, exercise and social services

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, I sat down with fellow diabetes experts Dr. Steve Edelman, M.D., founder and director of Taking Control Of Your Diabetes, and Joy Pape, R.N., a nationally known family nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator, to discuss how we can address some of these needs through real action. 

You can watch our full discussion on CVS Health Live Here:

The Pharmacist Is Very Much a Part of the Health Care Team

For Steve and Joy, the diabetes epidemic is personal: Steve was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 15, and Joy is pre-diabetic and has many family members living with the disease. So, they know firsthand the challenges people with diabetes face when trying to manage their disease in a fragmented health care system. Steve explains some of those obstacles:

Because people who have diabetes are trying to manage their health on top of all of the other demands of daily life, it’s important to make it as easy as possible to access care. That’s where the pharmacist comes in. A patient with diabetes will likely see their pharmacist as many as 18-24 times per year, creating a relationship that offers an important and recurring care touchpoint.

“From day one, I realized that the pharmacist is very much a part of the health care team. It’s hard to be motivated when you only see your doctor every three or six months. But when it’s your local pharmacist, you can be more in touch,” says Joy.

Pharmacy locations are also likely to be more convenient. I grew up next to my neighborhood CVS, and today roughly 70% of Americans live within five miles of one. CVS Health’s retail pharmacies are in 10,000 communities nationwide. So, options like MinuteClinic and HealthHubs make it easy for people to receive important monitoring and counseling in between doctor visits. This is especially true for diabetics in rural or underserved areas.

Education and Resources for a Treatable Condition

“Access to education is vital,” explains Joy. “A lot of people hear ‘you have diabetes’ and they get afraid of everything they’ve heard about complications. I teach them that it doesn’t have to be like that – but you do need to understand how to manage your condition.”

“Type 2 diabetes is a treatable condition,” adds Steve. “You take care of it, you’ll live a healthier and longer life.”

I wholeheartedly agree with my colleagues. When I see patients with complications of diabetes like amputations or blindness, it’s often because they didn’t have the resources, support or access to good health care to manage their disease. And that resource deficit can take many forms: Sometimes it can be a lack of education about proper nutrition. Sometimes it can be cost-prohibitive medications. And sometimes it’s as simple as not having dependable transportation to doctor appointments or to the local pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions.

That’s where new tools can help. For example, telehealth options improve access to care by allowing patients to ask questions remotely and receive lifestyle coaching on their own schedules. Medication refills by mail help improve medication adherence by eliminating transportation needs to local pharmacies. And digital glucometers share blood glucose levels with a pharmacist-led team via a health cloud, enabling the team to identify potential issues and intervene with one-on-one coaching.

In communities that face economic and other social determinants of health challenges, CVS Health offers free health and wellness screenings through our Project Health events. Participants receive on-the-spot assessments of weight, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels – tests that can help detect risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Promising Results on the Path to Better Health

It’s clear that it will take a multi-faceted approach in all aspects of our health care system to tackle the scourge of diabetes. The results of new programs and tools show promise. After CVS Health launched our Transform Diabetes Care program in 2017, more than 50 percent of enrolled members with uncontrolled diabetes now have their disease under control. As we get ready to move into a new decade, I’m excited to help uncover new ways we can address the unmet health needs of millions of Americans living with diabetes.

To learn more about CVS Health and diabetes, visit[1]

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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

Dr. Bev is the author of two self-help diabetes books. She has written numerous articles which are published in print and online – always focused on diabetes from the emotional perspective. She also speaks to audiences of people living with diabetes, as well as, to audiences of healthcare professionals and diabetes educators. Dr. Bev, herself, has been living successfully with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years.

In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

Marlene Koch (pronounced ‘cook’) is a nationally recognized nutritionist, popular TV personality and New York Times bestselling author. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. She is a registered dietitian and one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Marlene has taught professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation the principles of healthy cooking and eating. She has been adjunct Nutrition professor and cooking instructor for Columbus State College and the Columbus State Culinary Academy, and she is a nationally recognized expert in weight loss, diabetes, child and adolescent nutrition, and sugar substitutes.

Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

She has been interviewed and quoted in media outlets for WebMD, Atlanta Sports and Fitness, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She has partnered with V-103 Radio to lead supermarket tours as part of a community outreach during National Nutrition Month.

Cheryl helps her clients reach balance through lifestyle choices: cooking and eating, activity and purpose in life.

Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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