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How personalization can improve diabetes care

November 18, 2021 | Diabetes

A woman with sunglasses, who is sitting outside, holds a self-injecting medication pen in her hands.

Two years ago, 37-year-old Natalie Karabel woke up unable to see out of her right eye. “That was very scary,” she says. “The eye doctor told me I had a hemorrhage.” It was due to diabetic retinopathy, which affects small blood vessels in the retina.

Today, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and by 2030, that number is expected to surpass 55 million. These alarming figures inspired the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to give this November — American Diabetes Month — the theme “Big Step Up.”

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart disease and stroke, says Dr. Robert Gabbay, MD, PhD, Chief Science & Medical Officer for the ADA. Diabetics are also six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die as a result of COVID-19.

“The good news is that many of diabetes’ effects can be averted with the right steps,” Dr. Gabbay says.

Choices around eating and activity directly impact diabetes, explains Dr. Kenneth Snow, MD, Clinical Portfolio Medical Director for CVS Health. While a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight are risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, they’re not the only ones. People over age 45 and certain racial and ethnic groups are also at increased risk, he adds.

“You need to tailor your regimen for each individual patient,” Dr. Snow says. “One size will not fit all.”

Steps to detect, prevent and treat diabetes

To improve diabetes detection, the ADA created a one-minute online risk test. “One fifth of the people with diabetes don't know they have it, and 85% of people with pre-diabetes don't know they have it,” Dr. Gabbay says.

CVS Health has also pledged $10 million to support diabetes prevention and management and offers an in-store fundraiser at CVS Pharmacy locations through Nov. 27.

In 2017, we also launched Transform Diabetes Care, which uses data analytics to improve treatment.

“We have a lot of information about what's going on in a patient's life,” explains Ahmed Hassan, Vice President of Accordant, a CVS Health business. “When you combine that with the algorithms and predictive modeling tools we have, it changes the dynamic of how we approach clinical care for our patients.”

Today, Natalie carefully manages the factors that impact her blood sugar. “Every day is like a science experiment for people like me who are living with diabetes,” she says.