$15 Million Texas Experiment

$15 Million Texas Experiment: The residents in one Dallas, Texas neighborhood are much more likely to die of diabetes than other neighborhoods in the same county. Poverty adds it’s own wrinkle, but one costly experiment seeks to discover if a prevention program can be developed to overcome daunting odds.

Baylor’s Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute opened the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute, a health center that cost millions of dollars to develop. The city of Dallas chipped in $2 million as a health investment in this south Dallas neighborhood. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert referred to the facility as a “passport to health”.

When you consider that direct and indirect costs associated with diabetes totals more than $12 billion in Texas each year you can see that a $2 million investment is perhaps conservative. However, if the program ultimately works it could spread in the Lone Star State and around the country.

According to the Dallas Morning News Baylor’s Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute, “Includes a full-time physician; a pharmacy with lower-priced medication; nutrition and healthy cooking classes; a farmer’s market with fresh fruits and vegetables; and exercise and weight training programs.

“Their experiment pits money and a comprehensive wellness program up against poverty and unhealthy lifestyles.”

According to the report Baylor believes that preventative care will ultimately be less expensive than emergency room care and they are hoping the data will ultimately confirm their initiative.

There’s actually a lot riding on the success or failure of this Texas-sized experiment. According to the Dallas Business Journal, “Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, representing the state’s 30th congressional district. [She] spoke at the event, where she emphasized on the significance of preventative health care, adding that with the new diabetes center, Dallas has positioned itself as a model to the rest of the country.” If the program fails then it contradicts many of the presuppositions in the new Health Care Reform Act.

How Bad Is It In The Neighborhood?

The average annual income in this targeted area is just over $14,000. Some make less than $10,000 a year. The result is very little regular physician care coupled a diet that relies on calorie rich, but inexpensive foods. The combination means obesity among the poor in this south Dallas neighborhood.

The initial idea for the facility was unveiled in 2006 and the Baylor board has indicated they have been solidly behind the experiment.

Because Baylor is a non-profit hospital they must spend 20% of revenue from patients on what is known as “community benefit”. Some may argue this is simply a way to spend that money, but Baylor claims a more thoughtful approach to this experimental facility.

Baylor CEO Joel Allison is quoted by the Dallas Morning News as saying, “Health care organizations need to expand their role in the community, and this initiative is one example. Hospitals have not traditionally been in the business of providing cooking classes, farmers markets, treadmills and computer labs. But this new model of care represents the future.

“We are now working to improve the health of a community beyond the walls of the hospital.”

Diabetic residents are already taking advantage of the new program and have expressed gratitude that the facility is geared toward their neighborhood.

And as many eyes watch the program plans are sure to follow for other facilities if this should prove successful.