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Savannah City Leaders Launch Medicare Diabetes Screening Project

SAVANNAH, Ga. July 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Senator Lester Jackson III (D - 2nd District), Diane Weems, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the Coastal Health District, Charles Powell, Executive Director, Community Cardiovascular Council, and Loretha Jenkins, Program Coordinator, Coastal Area Agency on Aging, gathered today to urge all Savannah area seniors to learn more about their personal risk for diabetes. Together, they launched the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project (MDSP) in Savannah before a crowd gathered at the W. W. Law Senior Center. 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.

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

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 Chatham County, it is estimated that approximately 4,600 seniors ages 65 and older have undiagnosed diabetes, and an additional 12,500 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 Loretha Jenkins of the Coastal Area Agency on Aging.

"Since 2005, Medicare has offered benefits for diabetes screening, but usage of these benefits has been minimal," said Charles Powell, Executive Director of the Community Cardiovascular Council, "and usage rates for Chatham County are particularly worrisome."

Nationally, the rate of usage was 9.6% for all of 2006 (the most recent Medicare data available at Usage rates in Georgia were substantially lower, at 6.8%; the rate for Chatham County, at 4.0%, was significantly lower still.

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 Savannah.

"Savannah elected officials and other leaders from the community immediately saw the need for the Project," said Chatham County Health Department Administrator Dr. Diane Weems, "and we 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 Savannah."

The MDSP will reach out to Savannah-area primary care providers, to complement public awareness activities and directly inform them and their staff members about the MDSP and the screening benefits that Medicare offers their patients.

Also planned are a series of educational seminars at local senior centers and other community locations, to be coordinated and implemented by the Coastal Area Agency on Aging.

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 10.7% of all adults ages 20 and older in Chatham County have diabetes.

The Medicare Diabetes Screening Project in Savannah 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

SOURCE The Medicare Diabetes Screening Project
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