November is American Diabetes month— a month dedicated to increasing the awareness and education around the disease that affects nearly 1 in 10 Americans. These last 18 months have been especially scary and difficult for people with diabetes, who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Recent research shows that diabetes is a main contributor to severe COVID-19 morbidity, and that roughly 30-40% of people who had COVID-19–related hospitalization, severe cases requiring intensive care, and/or death have had type 2 or type 1 diabetes.
As an employer, the pandemic has made it especially critical to address diabetes among your employee population, and encourage both education and prevention. And when considering how to best address it, it’s important to consider the challenges employees who have diabetes may face while managing their disease at work.
Diabetes in the Workplace
Surveys, like this one of over 500 people conducted by Roche Diabetes Care, show that those with diabetes fear they may be judged in the workplace (40% of respondents hid their disease from their employers and coworkers) or have less opportunities for career advancement (50% of respondents felt they would be judged differently than their peers or have less opportunity for career advancement if their employer knew they had diabetes).
With the concerns that those surveyed had about disclosing their disease, 81% said they would be less likely to hide their disease if their employer sponsored a personalized wellness program to manage their diabetes. Nearly all (92%) stated they would use an employer- sponsored diabetes wellness program if it included both personalized digital coaching and blood sugar tracking.
What can employers can do
Employers have the power to foster a supportive culture for their employees with diabetes, and to design health benefits that include a more personalized approach to their care.
A recent white paper entitled “Changing the course and cost of diabetes at work: Best practices for employers” (summarized here) highlights 3 best practices for employers:
- Cultivate a culture that champions and supports an individualized and authentic approach to health and diabetes care. Some examples include:
- A private or dedicated space for blood glucose monitoring or insulin delivery
- On-site educational programs that promote awareness around diabetes
- Workday flexibility for employees that need to make in person or virtual health appointments
- Prioritize a personalized approach to diabetes care and avoid a “one-size-fits-all” program.
- Motivate employee participation and engagement in your programs. Some examples include:
- Foster an environment that facilitates an ongoing two way dialogue for employees with diabetes
- Promote a healthy workplace by encouraging and supporting health-related activities throughout the day (taking walks, meditation, yoga, offering healthy and diabetic friendly snacks/meals).
How Collective Health Can Help
At Collective Health, our Care Navigation Team, which is made up of nurses, social workers, dietitians and pharmacists, ensures that members are receiving comprehensive support for their diabetes care.
They accomplish this through:
- Ongoing education and support around things like medication adherence and healthy diets
- Identifying gaps in care like vaccines and preventative care screenings
- Helping members properly control their blood glucose levels to reduce risks for complications through education and access to resources
Setting Goals and Providing Resources
When working with members, our team helps to establish goals for their care, and subsequently, ensures they have access to the resources needed to achieve those goals. For example, for a member that is overdue for an eye exam, we can support members throughout the entire process, from connecting with a provider to securing transportation to and from their appointment.
There are often major costs associated with diabetes care, which can put a financial strain on those living with the disease. Our team can work with members to ensure they are utilizing their benefits appropriately, and saving out-of-pockets costs whenever possible.
To learn more about our Care Navigation offering, and ways we can support your members, look here.
Gregg, Edward W., et al. “Diabetes and Covid-19: Population Impact 18 Months into the Pandemic.” Diabetes Care, vol. 44, no. 9, 2021, pp. 1916–1923., https://doi.org/10.2337/dci21-0001.
https://www.benefitspro.com/2020/02/24/how-employers-can-help-employees-better-manage-diabetes/?slreturn=20211010141547 (results reported here but link provided in this article does not take you to the actual survey results).