Community Health Workers Linked to Lower Rates of Type 2 Diabetes in Rural Areas

Community health workers are associated with 12 percent more total diabetes cases among children who live in low-income rural areas compared to adults in those communities according to a new study. The research team analyzed data from a diabetology clinic in Chino California which serves more than one quarter of nearly 3 million Angelenos. The study focused on Type 2 Diabetes the most common form of diabetes affecting about 1 percent of East Los Angeles County residents.

The study followed the progress of nearly 2400 children who consumed water from numerous well-tap systems in Los Angeles County during the 2015-2016 National Childhood Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders Awareness Month a two-year period that saw certification exams vaccinations and visits to nutrition education centers. The study mirrored similar research highlighting the positive associations between telehealth and Type 2 diabetes.

These types of intervention programs strengthen relationships between the awareness of diabetes and telehealth and the potential to achieve improvements in the lives of residents in low-income communities said Yup Yao senior author of the study and a professor of public health medicine at LASD and the department of medical epidemiology in the LASD Chan School of Public Health. Outside of education and delivery nutrition care is a social justice issue where poor nutrition is often tied to diabetes risk. The study showed that a total of 2376 children living in Chino and four neighboring counties has Type 2 diabetes representing 21 percent of the countys population. It also showed that 3105 health workers who delivered more than 1. 6 million meals to enrolled patients from 2011 to 2014 were associated with an average of 20 percent fewer cases of Type 2 diabetes.

Overall the research team found that when the health workers handed packets of sugar-sweetened beverages to each child they doubled the chance of the child meeting with a certified nutrition and dietician as well as performing metformin intake in the form of either an oral or injectable form of the medicine.

The findings expand on previous research highlighting disparities in the city of Angeleno in several ethnic and socioeconomic groups including children of Mexican and Cuban descent. Previous research highlighted the link between education and preschool enrollment but this study suggests telehealth could be a viable method of streamlining care in disadvantaged high-risk communities.

Currently the only form of intervention delivery available in Los Angeles County is through community outreach networks such as the Angeleno Community Health Centers which serve the Bronx region.

Analyzing diet daily data the findings suggest the implementation of telehealth could enable community health workers to serve mostly underserved areas enabling them to be more effective in tackling the widespread and preventable obesity type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases across Los Angeles County. Additionally the study raises the possibility that telehealth a technology connected wearables could be incorporated into community health centers to improve access to free meals and other key behavioral health resources in those areas.