Pharmacy School Offers Diabetes Challenge

The program strives for better health among patients while saving health-care dollars and lowering absenteeism.
By Kukla Vera
Edith Mirzaian, coordinator of the Ten City Challenge-USC Program

Photo/Kukla Vera
USC will offer the Diabetes Ten City Challenge, a proven diabetes self-management program, to employees and dependents covered through the university’s self-insured medical benefit, known as the USC Network Medical Plan, beginning June 1.

The patient-centered program teaches diabetics how to take charge of their diabetes by using the resources of their health-care team, with the pharmacist as the central, most easily accessible professional available to guide the patient.

Through regular appointments, the pharmacist coaches the patient on disease management issues and ensures that the patient is maintaining contact with team physicians, nutritionists and diabetes educators.

As an incentive, the USC Network Medical Plan will waive co-pays on prescription medications and diabetes monitoring supplies for all diabetic employees/dependents who enroll in the challenge.

“The Ten City Challenge takes care of diabetic patients in a smart, collaborative way, building on the knowledge and skills of physicians, pharmacists, diabetes educators and the patients themselves,” said Edith Mirzaian, coordinator of the Ten City Challenge-USC Program.

The goal of the program is to improve patient health, which also may result in saving health-care dollars and reducing absenteeism in the workplace.

USC is the sixth employer nationwide to participate in the Diabetes Ten City Challenge, based on the Asheville (North Carolina) Project that has been underway since 1997.

The Asheville Project has produced stellar results, including a per patient decrease in annual medical costs of between $1,622 to $3,356 each year, a 50 percent reduction in absenteeism, 95 percent participant satisfaction rate with pharmacist care and a return on employer investment of at least 4:1 beginning in the second year of the program.

“Once we reviewed the health benefits realized by employees who participated in the Asheville Project and considered the possible cost savings to everyone involved, we were satisfied that the Ten City Challenge was a good program to offer to USC Network Medical Plan beneficiaries,” said Lisa Macchia, director of USC Health Plans.

According to the CDC, there are more than 20 million diabetics in the United States, and almost two-thirds of these people have not achieved control of the disease. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the U.S. spends more than $132 billion a year on diabetes, when considering direct costs as well as emergency room visits, expensive hospitalizations, disability insurances costs, absenteeism and lost worker productivity.

“This disease takes a huge toll on our society, both from a quality of life and a financial perspective,” said Kathleen Johnson, associate professor in the School of Pharmacy. “If, with the support of the patient’s health-care team, we invest in teaching diabetics how to best care for themselves, as in the Ten City Challenge, everyone wins. This model could transform diabetes care nationwide.”

Macchia added, “USC is an innovative and progressive leader, so it makes sense that we would offer this cutting-edge benefits program to the faculty and staff who participate in the Network Plan and to their families.”

A general wellness event for all USC staff and faculty will be held April 18 on the Health Sciences Campus and April 19 at University Park Campus. Health information and screenings will be available, including diabetes screening.

“We hope to recruit some employees into the Ten City Challenge during the April screenings. We’ll also be getting the word out in other ways so that diabetic employees and their dependents know about this new opportunity,” Mirzaian said.

The Diabetes Ten City Challenge is sponsored by the American Pharmacists Association Foundation with support from GlaxoSmithKline.

For more information on the USC program, contact Edith Mirzaian at (323) 442-5992 or