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City Leaders Launch Medicare Diabetes Screening Project in Augusta
Date:5/8/2009

Need Is Urgent; Among Seniors with Diabetes, Half Are Unaware; Medicare's Free Diabetes Screening Benefits Underutilized

AUGUSTA, Ga., May 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Senator Ed Tarver (D - District 22), Jeanette Cummings, Director, Central Savannah River Area Regional Development Center (CSRA RDC) Area Agency on Aging (AAA), and other city and community leaders today urged all Augusta area seniors to learn more about their personal risk for diabetes, as they launched the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project (MDSP) in Augusta before a crowd gathered at the Henry H. Brigham Senior Center on Golden Camp Road. On a national level, the MDSP is co-chaired by the American Diabetes Association, the Health Care Leadership Council, and Novo Nordisk, and is supported by more than 20 organizations representing the interests of seniors and health care providers.

"Today, I am proud to announce the start of the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project in Augusta," said Sen. Tarver. "When diabetes is undiagnosed and untreated, it can be devastating, and new government statistics show that our senior citizens are especially vulnerable."

According to a study in the February 2009 issue of Diabetes Care, 32% of adults ages 65 and older have diabetes. What's more, almost half (46%) of those seniors with diabetes don't know they have it - they have not been diagnosed. In addition to those with diabetes, another 40% of adults ages 65 and older have pre-diabetes, putting them at very high risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, and it is likely that most of them are unaware of their status. When these statistics are applied to Richmond County, it is estimated that approximately 3,400 seniors ages 65 and older have undiagnosed diabetes, and an additional 9,300 seniors ages 65 and older have pre-diabetes.

"These statistics show why it is crucial that we create awareness of the benefits that Medicare offers for diabetes screening, and motivate our seniors to ask their health care providers about being tested for diabetes," said CSRA AAA Director, Jeanette Cummings.

Since 2005, Medicare has offered benefits for diabetes screening, but usage of these benefits has been minimal. For people who are ages 65 and older and have one risk factor for diabetes, Medicare offers a free diabetes-screening test in a health care provider's office, with no deductible and no co-pay. If seniors are found to have pre-diabetes, they are eligible for another free screening in six months.

To encourage use of these benefits, the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project was conceived and launched in 2007 in Columbus, Georgia. City and community leaders in Columbus developed a model for public awareness and outreach, and that model is being adapted for implementation here in Augusta.

"Augusta elected officials and other leaders from the community immediately saw the need for the Project," said Commissioner Jerry Brigham, "and they have quickly developed ideas and networks for reaching out to seniors and their health care providers with messages of what Medicare offers for diabetes screening. This type of collaboration represents the best of Augusta."

The MDSP will reach out to Augusta-area primary care physicians and their office managers via a letter signed by diabetes specialist Dr. Charles Shaefer of University Primary Care. "To complement public awareness activities, it is important that we directly inform physicians and their staff about the MDSP and the screening benefits that Medicare offers their patients," said Dr. Shaefer.

Also planned are a series of educational seminars at local senior centers, to be coordinated and implemented by the CSRA Area Agency on Aging. And according to Rev. Robert Ramsey, Pastor of the Gospel Water Branch Baptist Church, seniors and their family members will also hear about the MDSP and Medicare diabetes screening via the faith-based community. "Communicating health information to our congregants is not only possible, it's been proven successful," said Rev. Ramsey, who recently participated in a diabetes prevention faith-based program as part of a research study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The most currently-available estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the prevalence of diabetes is 25% higher in the state of Georgia as compared to the national average (10% versus 8%, respectively). The CDC also estimates that 10.3% of all adults ages 20 and older in Richmond County have diabetes.

The Medicare Diabetes Screening Project in Augusta is a community-based effort to reach and motivate seniors who have undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes, and encourage them to see their doctors or other health care providers, and take advantage of the free diabetes screening benefits offered by Medicare. To learn more, visit www.screenfordiabetes.org.


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SOURCE Medicare Diabetes Screening Project
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