Diabetes

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Shining Light on the Cost of Diabetes Test Strips

(Victor/via Flickr)

Test strips — the white strip in the photo above — vary dramatically both in cash price and in insurance coverage. (Victor/via Flickr)

Since early this summer, KQED and our partners, KPCC and ClearHealthCosts.com, have been crowdsourcing the costs of common health care procedures.

‘Every time someone moves to a new insurer, the pricing will be very different on test strips. Nobody is going to send you a breakdown.’

If you’re one of the 29 million people in America who has diabetes, we’re turning now to you. We know that many people with diabetes must check their blood sugar, also called glucose, level several times a day.

For those of you who don’t have diabetes, the reason for frequent checking is because in diabetes, sugar can build up in the bloodstream because the body is not able to process it. That can be dangerous. Depending on the severity of the disease, many people with diabetes must check their glucose level several times a day to make sure it is neither dangerously high nor dangerously low.

To check their blood sugar, people with diabetes have a glucose meter. Each time they test their blood, a test strip is inserted into the meter. Then they use a special needle to prick a finger and place a drop of blood on a test strip. The meter displays the result. Continue reading

At Native American Health Center, the Prescription Is Vegetables

Fresh Approach staffers chop a variety of fruits and vegetables for today’s summer salad. “We tried to choose one of every color,” says Laura deTar, Nutrition Program Manager for Fresh Approach. “We want to expose people to things they may not have had.” (Brittany Patterson, KQED)

Fresh Approach staffers chop a variety of fruits and vegetables for today’s summer salad. “We tried to choose one of every color,” says Laura deTar, Nutrition Program Manager for Fresh Approach. “We want to expose people to things they may not have had.” (Brittany Patterson, KQED)

By Brittany Patterson

In Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, 20 people sit inside a colorful classroom at the Native American Health Center. They listen attentively as Leah Ricci gives a lecture on the merits of fiber and where to get it. As far as lectures on fiber are concerned, this one is pretty rousing.

“I didn’t like vegetables and fruit, but now we’re all eating more of them.”

“Can anyone name some foods that are high in fiber?” she asks.

Immediately the participants begin to throw out suggestions.

“Beans. Apples. Greens. Seeds.”

“What do all of these foods have in common?” Ricci asks.

“They all come from plants,” shouts out Paula Marie Parker.

Parker and the others are all students in a program at the Native American Health Center called VeggieRx, which teaches participants about nutrition and the merits of incorporating more fruits and vegetables and physical activity in their lives and the lives of their families. Continue reading

Stanford Tests Artificial Pancreas on Children with Diabetes

Study participant Tia Geri explains how this artificial pancreas works. (April Laissle/KQED)

Study participant Tia Geri explains how her artificial pancreas works. (April Laissle/KQED)

By April Laissle

This week seven children are participating in a Stanford research study in a somewhat unusual setting — a hotel in Newark, outside San Francisco. Researchers are testing an “artificial pancreas” on these children who all have Type 1 diabetes. The device is the latest advance in diabetes management technology.

“We’re trying to push this system to the limit by having the kids eat a lot and get out and run.”

The artificial pancreas is an android phone loaded with software mimicking the function of a real pancreas. Using bluetooth, the device communicates with two monitors attached to the patient’s body; one that keeps track of blood sugar levels and another that pumps insulin into the body when those sugar levels are too high. It determines when and how much insulin to release and sends that information to the insulin pump without patient intervention.

Researchers say the device could simplify the lives of those with diabetes by taking the guesswork out of treating the disease.  Continue reading

New Device Brings Price Drop in Diabetes Test Strips

The iHealth mobile blood glucose monitor. (Courtesy: iHealth Lab)

The iHealth mobile blood glucose monitor. (Courtesy: iHealth Lab)

iHealth Labs, a Mountain View company focused on mobile personal health technology has received FDA approval for what the company says is the world’s smallest mobile blood glucose monitor, called iHealth Align.

But for people with diabetes, the bigger news is likely to be the cost of the test strips that the device will use. People with diabetes often check their blood sugar one or more times a day. The test strips that users fit into a monitor list at a dollar each, for some of the larger brands. The strips for the new device will run 25 cents each. The device itself is $16.95.

“It’s probably more of a known secret in the marketplace that the real margins is within the strips,” Adam Lin, president of iHealth Labs, told MobiHealthNews. “We (wanted) to pass on all that savings to the end users. It’s got to be simple to understand. You don’t have to go through all these issues for reimbursement. We brought it down to pretty much co-pay.” Continue reading

Obamacare No Help to Undocumented Immigrants

Morgan Smith, a registered nurse with the Redwood Empire Food Bank Diabetes Wellness Project, conducts free diabetes screenings once a month at the Graton Day Labor Center.  The center serves as a conduit between its members -- many of whom are undocumented -- and health organizations around the region. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

Morgan Smith, a registered nurse with the Redwood Empire Food Bank Diabetes Wellness Project, conducts free diabetes screenings once a month at the Graton Day Labor Center. The center serves as a conduit between its members — many of whom are undocumented — and health organizations around the region. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

By Lisa Morehouse

California may lead the nation in numbers of people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but there are still millions in the state without health insurance.

‘That leaves a lot of low-wage workers without any health care coverage.’
Some of the people most likely to remain uninsured are undocumented Californians. While they can buy health insurance with their own money, they are specifically excluded from receiving any benefits under the ACA. Community groups and non-profits in cities and towns across California work to fill in the gaps.

One of them is Graton, a small town in Sonoma County, about 20 miles west of Santa Rosa.

When I arrive at the Graton Day Labor Center a woman named Maria is standing behind a table filled with containers of homemade food. There’s oatmeal — with no added sugar, she tells me — tortillas and salsa, fish for tacos, and salad. Continue reading

In Humboldt County, Hupa Woman Teaches Healthy Cooking via YouTube

Meagan Baldy demonstrates a stir-fry of local salmon, kale and mushrooms. (screen grab from YouTube)

Meagan Baldy demonstrates a stir-fry of local salmon, kale and mushrooms.The channel is aimed at improving the health of Native Americans.  (screen grab from YouTube)

By Samantha Clark

Tucked away in far northern California, in Humboldt County, is the small community of Hoopa. With just 3,000 people, it’s the big city on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.

Like other Native American groups, the Hupa suffer from high rates of obesity and diabetes. That’s where Meagan Baldy comes in. She runs the Hoopa Community Garden and sought to educate her fellow Hupa people about eating local, traditional foods. But trying to change people’s habits is never easy.

She started by offering a “farm box” – a box of free produce, whatever is in season. But people failed even to pick up their boxes. Baldy discovered that people didn’t know how to prepare most produce.

Serving the vegetables to her own family was a battle at first, so it must have been for others as well, Baldy reasoned. So, she snuck in greens and tried cooking them in creative ways. Continue reading

Should There Be a Ban on Using Food Stamps to Buy Soda?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Banning the use of food stamps to purchase sodas and other sugary drinks could reduce both obesity and Type 2 diabetes rates, according to new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

‘Shift in policy could prevent 400,000 cases of obesity.’  
About one in seven Americans — more than 46 million people — currently receive food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Government surveys show that the average SNAP recipient drinks the equivalent of a little more than a can of soda a day.

Stanford researchers used two data sets, one on diet and another on price data for food, and then used simulations to estimate the effect of a ban on using SNAP funds to buy sugary beverages, including sodas and sports drinks, but excluding 100 percent fruit juices. Continue reading

In California, 1 in 3 Hospitalized Patients over 34 Has Diabetes

Hospitalizations for patients with diabetes on average cost about $2,200 more than for patients who didn’t have the disease. (Getty Images)

Hospitalizations for patients with diabetes on average cost about $2,200 more than for patients who didn’t have the disease. (Getty Images)

By Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News

In California, roughly one in three hospitalized people over 34 years old has diabetes, increasing the complexity and cost of their care, according to a report released Thursday.

“If you have diabetes, it’s more challenging to treat anything.”
Hospitalizations for patients with diabetes on average cost about $2,200 more than for patients who didn’t have the disease, regardless of the reason they were admitted, according to the report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

“Diabetes … affects most body systems in one way or another,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and one of the authors of the study. “If you have diabetes, it’s more challenging to treat anything.” Continue reading

Top Health Concerns for U.S. Latinos: Diabetes, Cost of Care

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Patti Neighmond, NPR

Latino immigrants in the U.S. say the quality and affordability of health care is better in the U.S. than in the countries they came from, according to the latest survey by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. But many report having health care problems.

About a third of immigrant respondents (31 percent) said they’d had a serious problem with being able to pay for health insurance in the past 12 months. And more than 1 in 4 had a serious problem affording doctor and hospital bills and prescription medicines.

But the health issue that Latinos said is most concerning for them and their families — whether they were born in the U.S. or immigrated here — is diabetes. Last year, in another poll, Latinos said cancer was the biggest problem facing the country.

Hispanic populations have a high prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. About 10 percent of Latino adults have been diagnosed with it or have “prediabetes,” a stage of the disease that often goes undetected. Continue reading

California Supreme Court: Trained School Employees May Administer Insulin

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By KQED News Staff and Wires

SACRAMENTO — Trained school employees can administer insulin shots to diabetic students if a nurse is not available, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday.

The ruling reverses a lower court decision that said California law allows only licensed professionals to administer the shots.

“Sometimes [parents] have had to quit their job or jeopardize their employment because of the constant need to provide care when a school nurse wasn’t available.”
The Supreme Court ruled that “state law in effect leaves to each student’s physician, with parental consent, the question whether insulin may safely and appropriately be administered by unlicensed school personnel, and reflects the practical reality that most insulin administered outside of hospitals and other clinical settings is in fact administered by laypersons.”

The decision supports a 2007 agreement between the state Department of Education and the American Diabetes Association, which addressed a shortage of nurses to attend to all diabetic students by allowing trained teachers and administrators to give the shots.

That agreement settled a class-action lawsuit in federal court, alleging the state’s schools had failed to ensure diabetic students receive legally required health care services. Continue reading