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One plan’s unique approach to combat diabetes, obesity


This novel approach aims to help those already struggling with obesity and diabetes, but eventually win the fight against this epidemic.

The past century has seen major advancements against once deadly infectious diseases and cancer, so it seems illogical that the diseases that stymie us now are almost completely preventable. We have not been able to stop obesity and its related disorders from reaching epidemic levels. That’s because we’ve been taking the wrong approach.

We’ve been treating the disease rather than treating the whole person. If we’re going to curb the obesity epidemic and the chronic conditions that stem from it, we must take a holistic approach to treatment and prevention.

For lifestyle diseases, prevention requires sustained behavioral change, which can be difficult. Every physician and clinician remembers a patient who could have prevented negative health outcomes with a simple behavior change-but just couldn’t seem to make the change. We need to look at all of the reasons patients struggle to change behavior. Is the patient depressed or lonely? Is it difficult for them to access healthy food? Is there another health issue at play? Until we address all the issues, we won’t be effective in treating the obesity or diabetes.

Holisitic perspective needed

Humana is thinking holistically to help physicians create behavior changes among their patients.

One example is Humana’s partnership with Omada Health. The “Prevent” program uses data to help physicians identify patients at risk for diabetes and combines digital health with human coaching to change behavior and reduce risk. People who participated had a 7.5% weight loss and had improvements in glucose control, total cholesterol, well-being, depression and self-care.

In Florida, we're studying how behavior changes when physicians write prescriptions for their patients to visit a park or spend time outdoors as part of their treatment plan. For example, in the MetCare clinic in Plantation, Florida, primary care physicians have written over 400 prescriptions for parks over the past 10 months. The full research results will be presented at American College of Preventive Medicine in Portland, Oregon, in May.

Also, we have developed a model that predicts patients likely to progress from prediabetes to actual diabetes within the next 12 months. And we use those predictors to redirect people to their physicians for treatment or participation in a Humana clinical program.

Another example is our Go365 program, an online wellness and rewards program. I think of it as the gamification for wellness, as it encourages patients to take a variety of healthy actions. Patients earn points by completing activities that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Points then turn into rewards, such as discounts on healthy food at grocery stores.  

As we’ve rolled out these initiatives over the past few years, we’ve spent a remarkable amount of time thinking about physicians, their patients and how they interact with our programs. Committing to value-based care means working with physicians differently and looking at a patient’s total health. It’s the only way to help them change. By implementing a holistic approach we will not just help those individuals already struggling with obesity and diabetes, but eventually win the fight against this epidemic.


Roy A. Beveridge, MD, a Managed Healthcare Executive editorial advisor, is senior vice president and chief medical officer at Humana.

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