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Culturally Sensitive Care Reduces Hypertension Among Diabetes Patients


Asian Health Services

In recognition of American Diabetes Month, Direct Relief is spotlighting Asian Health Services (AHS), a health center that cares for people in need across Alameda County, Calif. and has developed an innovative approach to assist its predominately Asian patients with diabetes.

When Lily* began taking care of her ailing mother, the stressed 58-year-old’s own health started to suffer.

After a visit to Asian Health Services (AHS) in February, she learned that she had raised levels of HbA1c, or plasma glucose levels, which is particularly concerning to her ability to control her diabetes.

Because AHS employs a team-based coaching model that integrates behavioral health screening, Lily’s primary care physician recommended she begin a plan of care that incorporated counseling and other treatments.

After just a few months of the program, Lily reported feeling more relaxed and able to engage in her favorite hobbies again, such as gardening. During that time, her HbA1c levels dropped from 7.1 percent to 6.8 percent, a tangible sign of improvements in her health.

This innovative team-based model that assists patients with diabetes and the comorbidity (or presence of one or more additional disorders co-occuring with a primary disease) of hypertension through integration of behavioral care is why AHS was a 2014 recipient of the BD Helping Build Healthy Communities Award.

Operating a health center in Oakland, Calif., AHS focuses on providing care to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured people of the Asian and Pacific Islander community across Alameda County.

AHS offers services in 11 different languages to nearly 24,000 patients each year. Seventy percent of their patient population earns an income at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which is $23,850 for a family of four.

This specialized care is important for the community they serve as cultural and linguistic barriers and limited knowledge of the U.S. health care system create challenges for accessing care.

Because AHS’s staff understands the cultural norms of their community, they can offer specialized services to help patients make adjustments, including counseling, medication management, and cooking and education classes.

This is particularly important for diabetes care in Asian populations as Asian Americans are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than Caucasian Americans and are prone to developing the disease at lower body weights, according to a study highlighted in Medical Xpress

In the first nine months of 2014, AHS provided care to 1,740 active patients with diabetes. More than 92 percent of them have HbA1c levels less than or equal to nine percent, which exceeds the Healthy People 2020 goal of 83.9 percent.

Direct Relief is priveleged to support partners like Asian Health Services who are improving health in their communities by making comprehensive treatment accessible for the people they serve.

*name has been changed to protect patient privacy

AHS cooking class

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