First Arizona Diabetes Action Plan and Report includes policy recommendations

The Arizona Diabetes Action Plan and Report, a collaborative effort from multiple state agencies and organizations, was presented to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday.

The report was mandated by last year’s HB 2258, which required it to include several statistics about diabetes in the state, efforts that are currently underway, and a plan for reducing its prevalence.

According to America’s Health Rankings, which sources data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Arizona ranks 19th in the country for its prevalence of diabetes in adults. The number of adults who report having been diagnosed with diabetes has risen steadily, both in Arizona and nationwide.


Image: America’s Health Rankings


State-specific stats highlighted in the report include:

  • An estimated one in every 10 adults in Arizona have diabetes;
  • An estimated one in every three adults in Arizona have prediabetes (blood sugars are higher than normal, but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis) and 90 percent don’t know they have it;
  • Diabetes costs Arizona $6.8 billion, when direct medical costs and indirect costs (like absenteeism and early disability) are combined; and
  • African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and Asian Americans are at the greatest risk of developing prediabetes and diabetes.

Diabetes, the report said, is the sixth-leading disease-related cause of premature death in the state.

Wayne Tormala, Chief of the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease at the Arizona Department of Health Services, highlighted five recommendations from the report for the Senate Health and Human Services Committee:

  • Investigating causes of death attributed to diabetes on Arizona death certificates, since they found that diabetes may be under-reported;
  • Creating and using a data framework to make it easier and more efficient to track diabetes in the state in the future;
  • Using data from that framework to make decisions;
  • Encouraging all health plans in the state to provide diabetes benefits as part of coverage; and
  • Promoting access to and health-plan coverage for the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP), which is the CDC’s lifestyle change program.

The report itself included other recommendations Tormala did not mention, such as increasing access to “safe and affordable active living” and affordable, healthy food and drink.

After his brief presentation at the meeting, Sen. Heather Carter thanked Tormala and sounded motivated to take action on diabetes-prevention legislation.

“…this is so critical,” Carter said. “And really, not only for the quality of life for people in Arizona, but around trying to bend the cost curve in health care. And if we can work on diabetes prevention programs, I think that can really help, not only the state, but the citizens of Arizona as well.”

So far this session, at least two bills involving diabetes have been introduced in the Senate: One bill that would add diabetes self-management training services to some people covered by Arizona Medicaid (AHCCCS), and another that would place specific requirements and limitations on insurers that cover diabetes test strips, insulin, and medications.

“Obviously, our work is just beginning,” Carter said. “It feels like Groundhog Day: Every day we keep talking about the fact that we need to do this, we need to do this, and now we have the report. And, so, hopefully some of the initiatives around prevention will also start to move forward.”

This report is the first of its kind; according to last year’s bill, a report will now be required every two years.

The Arizona Department of Health Services ultimately released the document, but its making was a collaborative effort from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the Arizona State Retirement System, the Arizona Department of Administration Benefits Division, Vitalyst Health Foundation, the American Diabetes Association, and the Arizona Diabetes Coalition and Leadership Council.