Randy Seeley, PhD, calls diabetes and obesity "diseases of the 21st century.”
"These diseases are not procedure-oriented, and comprehensive management can be complicated and isn’t always reimbursed well, so there’s not a lot of profit incentive to deliver the best possible care,” he says.
But there is incentive for the community to get serious about these 21st century problems. An estimated 120,000 people in Greater Cincinnati have diabetes—many don’t even know they have it—and even more are overweight or obese and therefore at much greater risk for diabetes and other debilitating diseases.
Seeley says that raising the level of care, improving education and focusing on prevention can save and improve lives by lowering the number of cardiovascular deaths, and decreasing the number of limbs that have to be amputated, he number of patients needing dialysis and the number of patients who suffer from blindness. And, he adds, all of this equals an economic benefit for the region in terms of lowered health care costs and increased productivity.
That’s why, over the past three years, leaders from around the university, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and UC Health have been working to create the Cincinnati Diabetes and Obesity Center—a College of Medicine Center of Excellence.
The role of the center, Seeley says, is to gather all of the metabolic research and clinical teams from across UC’s campuses and its health care partners to make sure they are working together to facilitate better care for patients, improved education for trainees and physicians, increased outreach in the community and focused research for the development of better treatment strategies.
But it’s not just university and hospital staff around the table. The center has engaged members from area YMCAs, the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Greater Cincinnati Health Council, among others, to come up with communitywide solutions for the pressing problems associated with diabetes and obesity.
The center is also partnering with the university’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training to translate research into interventions for patients.
It’s not about competition in the market, Seeley points out. "There are too many patients for any one group to handle,” he says. "We must all work together to make sure patients are well served wherever they go for care.
"The Cincinnati Diabetes and Obesity Center is a node,” Seeley says. "We don’t want to reinvent that the local ADA and others are doing. We want to facilitate it.
"We see our role as being a part of the solution for a communitywide need. We are working to be a better partner to the community in which we all live by responding to this urgent need."