From 1980 through 2002, the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes more than doubled -- from 5.8 million to 13.3 million -- according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another 5 million people may be undiagnosed with the chronic disease, according to national statistics.

Every state in the nation has a Diabetes Prevention and Control Program (DPCP), but the California Diabetes Program (CDP), under the Department of Health (DHS), is using technology to respond to the epidemic.

The state is launching its Diabetes Information Resource Center (DIRC), a Web-based system to collect and communicate best practices, share resources and data, and promote collaboration on diabetes-related issues throughout California. The site may be the first of its kind in the nation, its creators said.

The online information clearing-house is operated by the CDP, which is charged with reducing the burden of diabetes in California.

"That's kind of a tall order. We look out for those who are at risk and for those who have it, so that's an even taller order," said Susan Lopez Mele, CDP administrative manager, and media and marketing specialist for the organization. "We try to really look at the big picture and figure out how we can be more helpful."

The Web-based DIRC fills gaps in health care and encourages collaboration among organizations fighting diabetes throughout the state, Mele said.

"Providing a 'one-stop' shopping experience, organizations will easily find and use what is available, thereby reducing duplications of effort," she said. "This means more people with diabetes would have a better chance to prevent costly complications such as blindness, amputations, kidney failure, heart disease and strokes. By improving health and health-care delivery, we ultimately will reduce health-care costs."

DIRC's launch comes when more than 2 million Californians are diagnosed with diabetes, and at least that many more risk developing the disease during their lifetimes.

Organizations submit profiles of their work to DIRC, and other groups can search the online data to find programs that complement their work or fill a current need. That model may be unique among state government health programs, Mele said.

However, similar technology could soon link multiple state programs, providing even broader information sharing among these organizations, she added.

The Diabetes Division at the CDC has an online reporting system that state diabetes government programs, like California's, use for reporting surveillance, epidemiology and program evaluation activities, Mele said, adding that the CDC can search the system for information submitted by all states and territories. "A new feature will be added soon where state programs can search all other diabetes programs. We are told this will be ready in 2005."

Origins

In 2002, the CDP created California's Plan for Diabetes: 2003-2007, which emphasized four specific areas for special attention: increased access to care, improved quality of care, promoting primary prevention and guiding public policy.

"For the last several years, we've been working really hard to step back and assess what we're doing, and also assess what's going on in California to make sure we're doing the right thing -- that we make good decisions, that we're filling gaps that need to be filled," Mele said.

In 2003, the CDP conducted a statewide diabetes assessment, and after getting input from industry partners, boiled down responses and created goals to make the CDP most useful.

"One of the major gaps was communication," Mele said. "We recognize there's a lot of really good work being done in the state -- tiny projects having an impact in a small community to huge health plans doing great work -- but what's clear is those folks don't regularly communicate with each other, and sometimes they reinvent the wheel because they don't know the

Jessica Jones  |  Managing Editor