Diabetes afflicts 10% of the U.S. population, and is the sixth-leading cause of death. The condition causes some 30 million visits to the doctor's office or the hospital every year. Nearly everyone knows of someone with diabetes. It is an equal-opportunity disease.
The statistics, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, paint a grim picture. However, the disease is manageable. Diabetes is tied closely with diet and lifestyle, so diabetics need to be vigilant about exercising and eating appropriate foods.
While diagnosis is critical to successful treatment, it's the ongoing support and guidance that often determines the long-term prognosis. The multiple aspects of diabetes care can easily overwhelm a newly diagnosed patient, so anything that can cut through the clutter and prioritize a person's goals is extremely helpful.
Enter the supermarket. Disease management is emerging as a unique opportunity for retailers, and diabetes is the condition many are using to launch initiatives designed to assist consumer/patients in coping with their conditions. Several operators have recently introduced comprehensive programs that include basic medications, blood glucose monitoring devices, diet advice and disease education:
• Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y., calls its program Diabetes AdvantEdge, providing free prescription medications, automated refills, consultation services and education.
• Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., offers its Diabetes Management System, with free prescription metformin, automated refills, pharmacy support and online education.
• CVS/Caremark, Woonsocket, R.I., has introduced ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes, which provides customers with virtually the same products and services as the other two retailers.
Diabetics benefit from both immediate and long-term care. It's the type of oversight that could help them stay out of crisis periods, since every trip to the store to pick up a prescription or just to do the weekly shopping is a potential intercept with a store pharmacist, dietitian or food educator.
In this age of health care reform, umbrella programs like the ones being created for diabetics represent everything retailers have been striving for in health and wellness. It's an ideal synthesis of responsibility, marketing and community service. The industry sees the potential. During the debate over health care reform, a number of trade organizations and retailers themselves pushed to strengthen the provisions of the bill regarding disease management. The idea is that making more services available outside of the main medical establishment would lower costs and make delivering care more convenient — and effective.
Diabetes is the first health condition retailers are testing under such a model. If consumers respond positively, as anticipated, it will be only a matter of time before additional programs are developed.
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