“Sometimes I have too many things going through my head, and I forget my sugar levels,” says Pam, a grandmother in St. Joseph, Missouri, who has diabetes.
Especially when she was living in a shelter, blood sugar was the last thing on Pam’s mind. She says, “My diabetes was fluctuating” — ups and downs that can be dangerous and lead to health crises, even visits to the emergency room.
But everything has changed: Now, Pam has a home where she welcomes her grandchildren and, several times a day, her cell phone buzzes with reminders to check her blood sugar, which she can easily do with a blood sugar monitor — the messages and monitor are provided by the Social Welfare Board, a free clinic supported by Americares.
Pam is one of 651 people across the country taking part in a 3-year program provided to five free and charitable clinics by Americares and Baxter International Inc. Patients in the program receive medicine, blood-sugar monitoring supplies and text messages that track blood sugar levels, reinforce treatment plans and promote healthy lifestyles, including physical activity and healthful food choices. Health care providers, including Pam’s nurse practitioner, use the data to inform care. The result is better overall health and lower risk of complications: Fifty-seven percent of high-risk patients in the program improved their diabetes status and, overall, the program saved patients and providers an estimated $76,000 in health care costs. This diabetes project is one of 19 health improvement projects Americares is supporting in the U.S. this year. In total last year, Americares provided aid valued at $190 million to nearly 1,000 U.S. health care safety net providers, including the Social Welfare Board.
The health team at the Social Welfare Board diagnosed Pam’s diabetes, helped her get the job that allowed her to have a home again, and connected her with a local food bank that provides healthful foods. Says Executive Director Linda Judah, “We work with diabetes patients on their diet, exercise, activity and medications. All of this is a very delicate balance. Through the tools that [Americares provides], we are able to work with patients more seamlessly and effectively.”