Media releases

July 4, 2006

Health passport reducing risks for diabetes sufferers

Small lifestyle changes and regular health checks can keep people with diabetes out of hospital - relieving pressure on the health system and the cost of managing the disease.

Results from a pilot program run by Medibank Private for members with diabetes, and coordinated by the International Diabetes Institute (IDI), have shown that even small actions can have a significant impact.

The intervention program, called the 'Medibank Private On Track Program' resulted in statistically significant improvements in diabetes control and other cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure levels and weight in the 485 participants. Health improvements that can reduce the risk of long-term serious complications for these people, and could in turn reduce hospitalisation rates and the cost of care.

Nearly 70 per cent of On Track participants, who began the program with blood glucose levels above the recommended level, showed improvement. Close to 10 per cent of participants achieved a one per cent decrease in HbA1c level - a measure of long term blood glucose control. Such a reduction has been shown to reduce the risk of kidney and eye complications by 37 per cent and the risk of heart attack by 14 per cent .

Twenty six per cent of participants reduced their systolic blood pressure by 10mmHg or greater. This degree of change can reduce the risk of kidney and eye complications by 13 per cent and the risk of heart attack by 11 per cent1.

The Medibank Private On Track Program also resulted in immediate benefits in terms of health care use with a 16 per cent decrease in the number of hospital admissions for the participants. There was also an 8 per cent reduction in benefits paid by the health fund in relation to this group of members' health care over the 12-month period, dropping from $616,256 to $568,670.

"Put simply, the On Track program allows Medibank Private to help members with diabetes better manage their disease," said Medibank Private Managing Director, George Savvides.

"However, this program has actually gone beyond just lending a helping hand - it has had a positive impact for our members, certainly for us as a health fund, and for the broader health system.

"Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia. We know around 160,000 adult Medibank Private members have diabetes and around 275 adults in Australia develop the disease every day.

"We also know the average benefit paid for a hospital visit doubles when a member has diabetes, increasing from approximately $2,000 to $4,000. Medibank Private has a responsibility to address the issue and help members to improve their quality of life and prevent further health complications.

"There are pay-offs for the individual, the health fund, and the community if we can work with members to mitigate and improve the management of conditions such as diabetes," he said.

Participants in the 'On Track' program were sent a diabetes passport to remind them of and record the appropriate routine checks from their GP using a questionnaire completed initially and then again at six and 12 months. The passport also contained valuable information about management of the conditions such as hypertension and high blood cholesterol, psychological issues, foot care, and weight loss.

Major health risks identified from the initial questionnaire results included obesity, elevated cholesterol, hypertension and poor glucose control.

Throughout the program individualised written feedback was provided by diabetes educators at IDI, which encouraged participants to seek medical advice from their GPs about management of their risk factors.

Based on the results of the On Track program Medibank Private plans to offer an ongoing program for members with diabetes, to be provided by IDI. Members interested in being involved should e-mail medibankhealth@medibank.com.au or phone 1800 117 683.

Key results from the program included:
� 16% reduction in the number of hospital admissions during the intervention period
� 56% of those who were overweight or obese lost weight
� 39% reduced their systolic blood pressure level
� 26% achieved a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 10mmHg or greater
� 35% reached target for total cholesterol - a 14% improvement from base line
� 82% reported discussing their written feedback with their GPs
� 23% reported a change in diabetes treatment
� 50% recorded an increase in physical activity per week
� 80% of those who completed the evaluation reported an increase in knowledge about diabetes


ENDS

For further information please contact:
Libby Woolnough - Medibank Private
T. (03) 8622 5181 or 0411 659 060
E: libby_woolnough@medibank.com.au


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