Washington, D.C. - July 15, 2009 - Project HOPE, the international health education and humanitarian assistance organization, and UnitedHealth Group [NYSE: UNH] today announced a partnership to bring much-needed health care services to underserved communities, beginning in New Mexico. The program represents one of the first implementations of UnitedHealth Group's "Connected Care," a new national telehealth network the company launched today.
A Connected Care mobile clinic will help residents in New Mexico obtain health screenings and treatment. The initiative will help residents with their overall health issues and will focus on identifying and addressing diabetes and other chronic diseases associated with a lack of regular primary care.
Since 1958, Project HOPE has worked to deliver sustainable solutions to health care challenges that affect underserved populations around the world. Partnering with UnitedHealth Group's Connected Care is the organization's first major, long-term project designed to aid underserved populations in the United States since the 1990s.
John P. Howe III, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Project HOPE, said: "HOPE is recognized in the international community as a leader in developing education programs to address chronic diseases such as diabetes. We have been seeking the right partner and opportunity to bring HOPE's expertise to the United States. This is the perfect partnership to allow HOPE to play a larger role in improving access to quality health care for all Americans, starting with the particular needs of rural New Mexicans."
Stephen J. Hemsley, president and chief executive officer, UnitedHealth Group said: "Project HOPE's leadership in community health programs coupled with our company's national health care resources will help improve access to quality care in underserved areas of the U.S. We are eager to work with these communities in New Mexico and leverage Connected Care to achieve better health over the long term."
The program will be available to New Mexico residents across the state, beginning in the first quarter of 2010 in the southwest (Hidalgo and Doña Ana counties) and expanding over three years to the central Albuquerque region, as well as the southeast and north.
Project HOPE and UnitedHealth Group will develop a sustainable model and infrastructure for primary care treatment and chronic disease management, while also building the capacity of local community health care centers and their workers to care for residents. UnitedHealth Group will provide program funding, technology and technical support to the partnership. Project HOPE will apply its knowledge and experience implementing health care training programs that address chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
For example, in the last 10 years, HOPE has trained more than 200,000 health care workers in China about diabetes prevention and treatment, and last year HOPE launched a diabetes education program targeted at health care workers in India. HOPE's India program recently was recognized by the International Diabetes Foundation as one of the best diabetes education programs in the world.
Chronic Disease Identification and Management Key Part of Program
Through Connected Care, a mobile clinic will travel to residents and give them access to physicians and specialists using high-definition videoconferencing to create an experience remarkably similar to an in-person visit with a doctor. An on-site nurse also will staff the clinic, and residents' ongoing health care needs will be coordinated with community health centers with an ultimate goal of ensuring patients have a "medical home" to help them stay healthy.
The program's chief objective is to help these communities address high incidences of chronic diseases, particularly type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. People of Hispanic or Latino origin - who make up 44 percent of the population in New Mexico - are more predisposed toward type 2 diabetes than Caucasians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 2004-2006 study showed 10.4 percent of Hispanics living in the U.S. had been diagnosed with diabetes, and nationwide another 57 million Americans of all ethnicities are considered pre-diabetic, with about a fourth of them unaware of their condition.
The Connected Care program in New Mexico will be designed to screen for and treat diabetes and pre-diabetes and other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and to educate residents about how to manage their health more effectively.
Program to Build Local Health Care Capacity and Help Achieve Sustainability
HOPE will implement its "Train-the-Trainer" (TOT) programs to build local health care worker capacity and help improve care quality in these communities for the long term. HOPE has implemented TOT programs around the world to teach health care workers how to better address their communities' most pressing health crises, from infectious diseases to chronic illnesses. The TOT also emphasizes teaching health care workers how to teach others, creating a ripple effect that further expands local health care capacity. Project HOPE has trained more than two million people worldwide, creating millions of better-trained health care professionals.
Key partners and collaborators in both the care delivery and training programs include the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Office for Community Health (UNM-HSC) and the New Mexico Department of Health; along with multiple community health centers and other local organizations. UNM will analyze the Connected Care mobile clinic's contribution to improved health outcomes and the results will be used to help inform future programs.