People who suffer from diabetes and who are overweight can increase their health by losing weight and increasing their physical activity. It is now known that pursuing these health goals may also reduce the health costs by an average of more than $500 per year. Those are the results of a recent study conducted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and published at the online issue of the Diabetes Care journal, entitled, “Impact of an Intensive Lifestyle Intervention on Use and Cost of Medical Services Among Overweight and Obese Adults With Type 2 Diabetes: The Action for Health in Diabetes.”
By engaging in a program that helps increase health by reducing weight and increasing exercise, patients with type 2 diabetes were able to control not only their diabetes but also blood pressure, sleep quality, physical function, and depression. As a result, there is less of a need to go to the hospital, as well as to take medication, both of which lead to healthcare savings.
“Lifestyle interventions promoting weight loss and physical activity are recommended for overweight and obese people with Type 2 diabetes to improve their health,” explained Mark A. Espeland, lead author of the study and professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “This is the first study to show that weight loss can also save money for these individuals by reducing their health care needs and costs.”
During his research, Espeland analyzed data from 5,121 people who suffered from obesity and overweight, as well as type 2 diabetes, between the ages of 45 and 76, and who were part of a National Institute of Health-sponsored Action for Health in Diabetes study, beginning in 2001. Half of the patients were randomly chosen from the 16 study’s sites across the country to receive intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) or diabetes support and education (DSE) programs. The researcher kept the patients’ medical histories on track through 2012.
Within the group who received the ILI intervention, 11 percent fewer hospitalizations and 15 percent shorter hospital stays were registered, as well as fewer prescription medications. As a result, the healthcare costs were reduced on an average of $5,280 per person over 10 years, which means $528 per year.
According to the researcher, the ILI program helped patients maintain lower weights and higher levels of physical activity and was proved more effective than the DSE program, resulting in better control of their diabetes, blood pressure, sleep quality, physical function and symptoms of depression. The cost savings for people in the ILI group were relatively consistent regardless of age, initial weight, gender or ethnicity.
“Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that is affecting more and more adults, increasing their health care needs and costs. This study shows that by losing weight and being physically active, individuals can reduce these costs,” stated Espeland, whose research was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health with additional support from the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute of the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.