Linking with the Virginia Business Community to Curb Diabetes

Site Story

Field of Work: Strengthening the public health system

Problem Synopsis: According to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Public Health, by 1988, the nation had lost sight of its public health goals, and allowed public health to fall into disarray. The report noted that America's public health system was expected to do too much with too few resources. It also stated that capabilities for effective public health actions were inadequate, and the health of the public was "unnecessarily threatened as a result."

In the late 1990s, more than twice as many people were dying from diabetes in Wythe County, part of Appalachian Virginia, as in the rest of the state. Although diabetes screenings were available in the community and a community hospital offered classes for people newly diagnosed with the disease, those efforts were not reaching the highest-risk populations.

Synopsis of the Work: Turning Point: Collaborating for a New Century in Public Health, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, defined its mission as to "transform and strengthen the public health system in the United States to make the system more effective, more community-based and more collaborative." The two foundations partnered to support 22 states and 41 local communities in those states. RWJF also supported five National Excellence Collaboratives that allowed states to work together on important public health infrastructure challenges.

The Virginia Center for Healthy Communities organized a workplace diabetes screening program with the local business community.

Key Results: After conducting research that showed the high rates of diabetes in Wythe County, and the cost to employers of uncontrolled diabetes, staff presented the idea to the Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce.

During screening days, which were held at local businesses, a school and the community hospital, health care professionals screened and educated hundreds of employees. They also rushed two employees with dangerously high levels of blood sugar to the hospital for immediate care.

Based on the project's success, the Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce established a Health Task Force to manage future diabetes screenings and similar projects.