HLS report illustrates pervasiveness of Type 2 diabetes epidemic in NJ

PATHS Clinical Fellows

Report co-authors Allison Condra (left) and Amy Katzen (right) with New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney at the New Jersey Diabetes Leadership Forum on March 27, 2014

The Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) recently released a report on the landscape of type 2 diabetes in New Jersey. The report, 2014 New Jersey State Report: Providing Access to Healthy Solutions (PATHS) – An Analysis of New Jersey’s Opportunities to Enhance Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes, serves as a resource for diabetes advocates and offers detailed policy recommendations for the prevention and management of the disease.

The report was a product of the center’s PATHS project, which aims to strengthen federal, state, and local efforts to improve the type 2 diabetes landscape through strategic law and policy reform initiatives.

The PATHS project, funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation through its Together on Diabetes initiative, consists of state-level analyses in New Jersey and North Carolina, as well as federal-level recommendations and state best practices. It is the first product of a five-year grant process, written over the course of eighteen months under the supervision of Clinical Fellows Amy Katzen of the Health Law and Policy Clinic (HLPC) and Allison Condra of the Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), the two divisions of CHLPI.

Fourteen students worked with staff to conduct extensive research and more than fifty interviews with policymakers, government agencies, and non-profit organizations that are playing a role in the state’s diabetes response. Their detailed findings highlight the extent of the type 2 diabetes epidemic in New Jersey and provide actionable recommendations for diabetes advocates.

“A frightening fact is that New Jersey ranks third in the nation for obesity among low-income children ages two to five, predisposing them to a future diabetes diagnosis. Nearly three-quarters of a million New Jersey adults are currently living with the disease,” said Allison Condra. “Our recommendations should serve as a resource for diabetes advocates within the state who are already working to take action.”

The PATHS report first details the impact of type 2 diabetes in New Jersey, and includes a profile of the state’s demographics, economy, political structure, and existing institutional capacity to address diabetes. Following this assessment, the report identifies existing policies that impact diabetes through the state’s food system and health care system.

The report provides numerous detailed recommendations, including: making fruits and vegetables affordable and accessible to people in many low-income communities; helping New Jersey children gain access to healthy foods at school; making communities conducive to healthy, active living; providing access to the Diabetes Prevention Program; ensuring access to diabetes self-management education, medical nutrition therapy, and diabetes equipment and supplies; and enhancing care coordination for Medicaid/Family Care enrollees. Amy Katzen, explained, “by ensuring that all New Jerseyans living with type 2 diabetes have the tools, skills, and knowledge to manage their disease, we can prevent many of the most severe complications, keeping New Jersey healthier, happier, and more productive.”

To promote the PATHS report findings, CHLPI clinicians and students traveled to Trenton, New Jersey, to release the report at the New Jersey Diabetes Leadership Forum, on March 27, 2014. As Taylor Bates, ‘15 noted, “Ever since I started working on it, the PATHS NJ project has impressed me again and again with its thorough research on diabetes in New Jersey and the innovative solutions it offers. This event showed me that the community understands this problem and has the power to solve it. New Jersey has a chance to apply well-researched solutions to its growing diabetes epidemic, and based on what I saw at this event we’ll see a lot of progress in the coming years.”

The report was very well received by state legislators, agency policymakers, and community leaders. New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney addressed the Forum attendees, describing his personal experience with diabetes and telling the audience, “I’m in your corner.”

“New Jersey has a very high prevalence of diabetes, with approximately 700,000 people living with the disease,” said Robert Greenwald, Director of CHLPI and Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, in addressing participants of the New Jersey Diabetes Leadership Forum. “This number is expected to double by 2025, and it is essential that advocates, legislators, and government agencies come together and take action now. Our hope is that the report will support these efforts and provide a resource to those that are already doing great work to address the prevention and care management needs of people living with or at risk for diabetes in the state.”

Read the full report here.

This post by Kristen Gurley J.D. ‘15 originally appeared on the Clinical and Pro Bono Programs blog.