Objective: Management of type II diabetes is difficult, particularly in urban populations with limited resources and access to care. To evaluate the effectiveness of structured care delivered by non-physician providers, patients were studied prospectively for 6 months in a municipal hospital diabetes clinic.
Design and methods: The population was approximately 90% African American and had median known diabetes duration of approximately 1 year, 54% had incomes below the Federal Poverty Guideline. Primary management was provided by nurse-practitioners and dietitians, and primary outcome measures were hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), fasting plasma glucose, and changes in body weight.
Results: Responses were analyzed in 325 new patients returning for visits at 2, 4, 6, and 12 months; metabolic profiles at presentation were similar to those of subjects who missed intervening visits. Lean patients largely continued on pharmacologic therapy and improved HbA1c from 9.4% to 7.4% at 2 months (P < 0.001), remained stable through 6 months, then rose to 7.9% at 1 year. Obese patients (71%) received dietary instruction. Weaning of pharmacologic therapy was attempted for the first 2 months, resulting in a decline of HbA1c from 9.6% to 8.0% (P < 0.001), with 70% treated with diet alone. In the obese, HbA1c continued to decrease through 6 months (7.7%). Thereafter, providers saw patients at their own discretion and intensified therapy as needed. Although by 1 year, HbA1c had risen to only 8.2%, some patients required reinstitution of pharmacologic therapy; 59% were on diet alone. While 52% lost 4 lb or more (mean 9.3) by 2 months, little additional weight was lost. Interestingly, glycemic control was improved both in those who lost > or = 8.5 lb in the first 2 months (HbA1c 9.6% to 8.1% at 12 months), and in those who gained weight (HbA1c 10.2% to 8.2%). In the obese patients using pharmacologic agents at presentation, 35% were able to discontinue oral agents or insulin by 1 year, with good glycemic control (HbA1c < 8%). For patients who were initially on diet alone, a fasting plasma glucose > 177 mg/dL predicted the need for pharmacologic therapy with 97% certainty.
Conclusions: In urban African American patients, nonpharmacologic management of type II diabetes substantially improves metabolic control; decreases in HbA1c are comparable in those who do and do not lose weight. Therapy managed by nonphysician providers can be an effective cornerstone of diabetes care in this socioeconomically disadvantaged population.