For the first time, the nation has a clear picture of diabetes prevalence, costs and control in the Rio Grande Valley/South Texas (RGV), where more than 70,000 adults have diabetes.

With the help of a newly launched data resource developed by the Diabetes Care Project (DCP) specifically for the RGV, local leaders now have improved access to comprehensive cost and prevalence data in one centralized resource, which will help to supplement their strategy to get diabetes in the region under control, improve diabetes care and reduce health care costs.

This region, particularly McAllen, has been widely criticized in the media for its alleged high health costs. The new data resource reveals these costs have been primarily driven by a high rate of uncontrolled diabetes in the region (as defined by hemoglobin A1C levels greater than 8).

The customized, first-of-its-kind, free resource for the community, known as the U.S. Diabetes Index South Texas Edition, was launched Dec. 9 by the DCP in collaboration with the South Texas Diabetes Initiative (STDI), a local network of health care professionals, business leaders, government officials and patients who are dedicated to finding solutions for today's complex diabetes problems in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties. In these counties, this data resource reveals:

The prevalence of diabetes is 20 percent greater than the national average and the state of Texas (10.88 percent vs. 8.95 percent vs. 8.81 percent, respectively).

25.1 percent of the diabetic population have uncontrolled diabetes, compared to the national average of 23.1 percent.

Individuals in the Rio Grande Valley are uninsured at a rate more than double the national average (25.3 percent vs. 11.44 percent, respectively).

59.7 percent of adult diabetics visit the ER or hospital, which is greater than the national average of 54.6 percent.

"This new informational tool, designed specifically for the Rio Grande Valley, helps pinpoint the changes that we believe will make the greatest impact in this community," said Gary Puckrein, Ph.D., founding partner of the DCP and CEO and President of the National Minority Quality Forum. "Previous analyses of South Texas were incomplete, which painted an inaccurate picture of the area's diabetes landscape. We are excited to unveil this new data resource, and with it the complete story that can be used to implement meaningful change."

The DCP and the STDI are now assembling a broad group of local stakeholders that are cooperatively using this new data to develop a plan for change.

The plan will address cultural considerations that influence the adoption of appropriate diabetes care; include community-based interventions that have been evaluated and proven successful in other markets; help physicians and other health care providers make necessary changes to their practice that will better facilitate diabetes care and increase patient adherence to care programs; and help increase overall awareness of appropriate diabetes care among patients in the Rio Grande Valley.

"The South Texas Diabetes Initiative is built upon community involvement and the commitment of all stakeholders to take action and make a difference," said Cynthia J. Brown, Ph.D., vice provost for Graduate Studies, Academic Centers and Continuing Education at The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA), an STDI partner. "We are excited to embark on what we know will be a revolutionary project for our community and hopefully become a model for other communities nationwide."

Diabetes prevalence rates are on the increase nationwide. The U.S. Diabetes Index South Texas Edition, available for free after a brief registration, provides a clear picture of how the prevalence of diabetes and the necessary care are directly tied to health care costs. This data comes from several different sources, including data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the U.S. Census Bureau. The Index can be accessed by visiting www.diabetescareproject.org/national-action.html.

"The South Texas edition of the U.S. Diabetes Index will provide health care practitioners with a new localized data resource, which is central to helping us establish programs that will empower our community with the ability to combat diabetes and turn victims into survivors. This data will allow us to formulate key benchmarks to measure the overall success of the South Texas Diabetes Initiative, which is critical for lasting change," said Israel Rocha, government affairs officer at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR) in Edinburg, an STDI partner.

As the next step in these efforts, UTPA and DHR will convene a STDI stakeholders meeting on Jan. 11 to identify community-based diabetes interventions that will be implemented across the region. Local community members interested in joining the effort can visit www.diabetescareproject.org/national-action.html to learn how to get involved. South Texas will serve as a pilot initiative for the DCP, with the goal of identifying scalable solutions and replicating successes achieved in other communities.

The Diabetes Care Project (DCP) is a coalition of patient advocates and health partners whose goal is to educate patients, health care providers, and policymakers about the value of developing personalized management plans for diabetes patients in an effort to improve each patient's health outcomes and lower costs for the entire health system.

Roche Diagnostics and the National Minority Quality Forum are founding partners of the DCP. All partners of the DCP are committed to improving patient outcomes and advancing diabetes care and management. For more information, please visit www.diabetescareproject.org.

The South Texas Diabetes Initiative (STDI) is a community-driven effort to improve patient health outcomes and lower costs for the entire health system through appropriate diabetes management in South Texas (Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties).

The University of Texas-Pan American and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance are founding partners of the South Texas Diabetes Initiative (STDI). Joined by local community advocates, physicians and allied health providers, STDI seeks to empower South Texans with better access to care, better health care programs and better management tools to combat the prevalence of diabetes in the Rio Grande Valley.