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Diabetes is a growing problem in New York City, affecting some 700,000 New Yorkers and contributing to thousands of deaths each year, according to city estimates. But diabetes prevention efforts still receive far less city funding than other public health...

City doesn't spend on diabetes prevention

Diabetes is a growing problem in New York City, affecting some 700,000 New Yorkers and contributing to thousands of deaths each year, according to city estimates. But diabetes prevention efforts still receive far less city funding than other public health...

City doesn't spend on diabetes prevention

Diabetes is a growing problem in New York City, affecting some 700,000 New Yorkers and contributing to thousands of deaths each year, according to city estimates. But diabetes prevention efforts still receive far less city funding than other public health problems such as smoking and HIV, which are on the decline.

Frustrated by the lack of dedicated funding from the city Health Department, a coalition of community-based nonprofits is asking the City Council to include $2 million in the fiscal 2018 budget to administer the evidence-based National Diabetes Prevention Program, which is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It involves training peer lifestyle coaches to educate people at high risk for diabetes in their communities. For now, Health People, the coalition's lead agency, has funding for the program from a pool of money set aside for reforming Medicaid in the state, but some organizations administer it on a volunteer basis.

The prevalence of diabetes increased 150% among adults in New York City between 1993 and 2011, according to the city Health Department.

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"The city has been getting bad stats for two decades now," said Chris Norwood, executive director of Health People. "There has to be an urgent and coherent response. We did this for AIDS. We did this for tobacco. It's not as if we don't know how to do these things."

For fiscal year 2018, the city's preliminary budget includes $7.5 million for prevention and primary care programs targeting tobacco use, $190.6 million for preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and $25.7 million for preventing and treating sexually transmitted diseases.

New York City does not typically track funding designated for diabetes prevention and care, which is often included in broader initiatives, according to a Health Department spokeswoman.

With some digging she found the city spends "over $2.6 million every year" on three diabetes-specific programs, which include a study on the effectiveness of telephone-based support for managing the disease and an effort to work with primary care practices to promote interventions geared toward prevention.

However, when city spending to curb risk factors such as high blood pressure and inactivity are included, "the universe of relevant programming to prevent diabetes becomes much larger," she said.

Asked to comment on the fact that city spending on diabetes lags other public health priorities, the city responded, "Diabetes prevention and management is a priority for the Health Department. We are committed to implementing evidence-based programs to give New Yorkers the resources they need to prevent this disease."

The city has shown support for the National Diabetes Prevention Program by directly training health coaches and providing technical assistance to community groups and clinical practices, the Department said.

Last year, the city also awarded Health People one of eight $12,000 grants, carved out of funding from the CDC, to administer the program. As a result, Norwood said, Health People was able to enroll 35 people—mostly seniors and people with mental health diagnoses—who achieved an average weight loss of 8%.

The grants were meant to be short-term and the city has yet to decide whether to renew Health People's funding, the Health Department said. Norwood isn't counting on it.

"When they ended those little grants they made a huge statement," Norwood said.

For now, Norwood is turning her efforts toward the City Council, and has secured a meeting next week with council member Corey Johnson, who chairs the Health Committee.

Johnson could not yet say whether the funding would make it into the budget, but said he supports the coalition's efforts.

"It's precisely the kind of community-based health care approach that we need more of," Johnson said in a statement to Crain's. "Diabetes continues to affect thousands of New Yorkers, particularly in communities of color, so we have a lot of work to do. I'll be advocating for this initiative as we continue to negotiate the budget over the next two months."

Diabetes is a growing problem in New York City, affecting some 700,000 New Yorkers and contributing to thousands of deaths each year, according to city estimates. But diabetes prevention efforts still receive far less city funding than other public health problems such as smoking and HIV, which are on the decline.

Frustrated by the lack of dedicated funding from the city Health Department, a coalition of community-based nonprofits is asking the City Council to include $2 million in the fiscal 2018 budget to administer the evidence-based National Diabetes Prevention Program, which is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It involves training peer lifestyle coaches to educate people at high risk for diabetes in their communities. For now, Health People, the coalition's lead agency, has funding for the program from a pool of money set aside for reforming Medicaid in the state, but some organizations administer it on a volunteer basis.

The prevalence of diabetes increased 150% among adults in New York City between 1993 and 2011, according to the city Health Department.

"The city has been getting bad stats for two decades now," said Chris Norwood, executive director of Health People. "There has to be an urgent and coherent response. We did this for AIDS. We did this for tobacco. It's not as if we don't know how to do these things."

For fiscal year 2018, the city's preliminary budget includes $7.5 million for prevention and primary care programs targeting tobacco use, $190.6 million for preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and $25.7 million for preventing and treating sexually transmitted diseases.

New York City does not typically track funding designated for diabetes prevention and care, which is often included in broader initiatives, according to a Health Department spokeswoman.

With some digging she found the city spends "over $2.6 million every year" on three diabetes-specific programs, which include a study on the effectiveness of telephone-based support for managing the disease and an effort to work with primary care practices to promote interventions geared toward prevention.

However, when city spending to curb risk factors such as high blood pressure and inactivity are included, "the universe of relevant programming to prevent diabetes becomes much larger," she said.

The city has shown support for the National Diabetes Prevention Program by directly training health coaches and providing technical assistance to community groups and clinical practices, the Department said.

Last year, the city also awarded Health People one of eight $12,000 grants, carved out of funding from the CDC, to administer the program. As a result, Norwood said, Health People was able to enroll 35 people—mostly seniors and people with mental health diagnoses—who achieved an average weight loss of 8%.

The grants were meant to be short-term and the city has yet to decide whether to renew Health People's funding, the Health Department said. Norwood isn't counting on it.

"When they ended those little grants they made a huge statement," Norwood said.

For now, Norwood is turning her efforts toward the City Council, and has secured a meeting next week with council member Corey Johnson, who chairs the Health Committee.

Johnson could not yet say whether the funding would make it into the budget, but said he supports the coalition's efforts.

"It's precisely the kind of community-based health care approach that we need more of," Johnson said in a statement to Crain's. "Diabetes continues to affect thousands of New Yorkers, particularly in communities of color, so we have a lot of work to do. I'll be advocating for this initiative as we continue to negotiate the budget over the next two months."

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