Public health experts are sounding the alarm over soaring rates of amputations resulting from diabetes, and Fresno County unfortunately stands out with the sharpest rise in limbs lost to the disease, according to 2016 data.
From our perspectives as an eye doctor and a lawmaker, we are concerned about what the diabetes epidemic means for the Central Valley. While the statistics are daunting, we are encouraged that the path to changing them could run right through Fresno.
Statewide, more than half of California’s population has diabetes or is at risk for developing the chronic condition that can rob patients of their eyesight, their limbs and their lives. In January, the Sacramento Bee reported that the rate of diabetes deaths has grown “exponentially” in Californians under the age of 55.
Optometrists are noticing more blindness and worse outcomes for patients as diabetes has grown to epidemic proportions across the state. Meanwhile, the cost of treating diabetes in California was $27 billion in 2012 and growing, according to the American Diabetes Association, a significant hit to California taxpayers and families’ pocketbooks.
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That’s why we are encouraged by an innovative new partnership that will kick off Saturday. A “Diabetes Day” hosted by Clinica Sierra Vista will deliver comprehensive diabetes examinations including eye exams, blood-pressure checks, blood work and diabetic education for patients. Examinations are available by appointment and can be scheduled by calling Clinica Sierra Vista at 457-5826.
The first-of-its kind event in Fresno is part of new partnership between Anthem Blue Cross of California Medi-Cal Health Plan, the California Optometric Association, and the California Primary Care Association to tackle the growing diabetes epidemic.
The Fresno campaign is modeled after a successful pilot program that Anthem Blue Cross of California Medi-Cal Health Plan launched earlier this year in Sacramento, aiming for each Medi-Cal member with diabetes to be seen by a health care provider and receive an eye exam at least once each year.
By partnering with community clinics and local optometrists, the health plan hopes to not only get patients through the clinic doors, but also to develop a connection that will result in regular follow-up care that protects eyesight, prevents amputations, and saves lives.
Eye care is not only essential for diabetic patients to preserve their vision, but also has an important role in diagnosis and management of the disease. Studies show that nearly one in 20 diabetic patients have advanced diabetic retinopathy – damaged blood vessels that can cause blindness.
Among the patients who came to Anthem’s pilot clinic in Sacramento, one in four had diabetic retinopathy and more than half had other conditions that put them at risk of vision loss.
Anthem Blue Cross is the first Medi-Cal health plan to heed the California Optometric Association’s call for Medi-Cal managed care plans to improve their progress on state standards for helping consumers prevent and manage diabetes, and we are hoping other insurers see the potential in such partnerships.
Fresno’s striking diabetes statistics should serve as a wake-up call. While the costly and life-threatening consequences of diabetes are on the rise, by working together, our community has the opportunity to set an example for prevention.
Dr. Margie Recalde, a Fresno optometrist and president of the Central California Optometric Association, can be reached at 432-2200. State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, represents Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. He can be reached at 264-3070.
Free diabetes exams
Appointments: Clinica Sierra, 457-5826