City of New Orleans Employees: Building a Healthier Future in Wake of Katrina

Jamie Kirkwood
Published Online: Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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Ms. Kirkwood is marketing and sales manager at the American Pharmacists Association Foundation.


Three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the City of New Orleans, old remnants of the storm's destruction are still apparent. An overwhelming shortage of health care professionals and hospitals to accommodate returning citizens is one of many concerns still plaguing the city. In the midst of the lingering distress, a cause for hope has emerged for City of New Orleans employees with diabetes.

In an effort to educate and improve the health of its employees with diabetes, the city of New Orleans, with support from GlaxoSmithKline, is offering health plan beneficiaries access to the HealthMapRx program, a service of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation. Evolved from more than a decade of research by the APhA Foundation, HealthMapRx is a patientfocused collaboration between employers, health plan beneficiaries, community pharmacists, and members of the health care team. In private, face-to-face counseling sessions with community pharmacists, health plan beneficiaries are taught how to better manage their chronic conditions (such as diabetes) and reduce associated risks. This model is based on previous research from the APhA Foundation and the Asheville Project—the highly successful collaborative disease state management model that launched in 1997 and has been replicated effectively across the country, which has brought together pharmacists, physicians, employers, policymakers, health educators, and patients, with the ultimate goal of improving the health of employees and lowering health care costs.

"The HealthMapRx program has allowed us to provide high-quality and individualized assistance and training for employees with diabetes," said Jean Morris-Anderson, chief operating manager for the City of New Orleans. "Pharmacists provide the first line of defense in informing a participant of the do's and don'ts of medication use."

With participant enrollments underway and pharmacist visits to begin in the next few weeks, HealthMapRx has brought a new hope and a heightened sense of morale within the City of New Orleans employee population. City employees are enthusiastic for the opportunity to learn how to better manage their diabetes. One City of New Orleans employee commented, "Now I can learn what to do and how to take care of myself." Another City of New Orleans employee expressed excitement about the program, saying, "This will help me save money and feel better."

Working with the APhA Foundation to implement HealthMapRx in the City of New Orleans, the Piedmont Pharmaceutical Care Network (PPCN) has stepped in to offer its services by building a network of local credentialed pharmacist providers to offer patient care to employees participating in the HealthMapRx program.

"What interests us, especially in working with the City of New Orleans, is that it presents an opportunity to assist the city and its employees in some fashion as it continues to recover from the Katrina disaster," said Larry S. Long, president and managing partner of PPCN. "As many of us realize, the health care infrastructure suffered greatly from the storm, compromising access to care and resources essential to those with chronic diseases like diabetes. We find it especially rewarding to be able to play even a small role in helping the area to improve access to health care resources."

"Implementing the HealthMapRx program in New Orleans is an exciting opportunity for the APhA Foundation to help ensure that the city's diabetic employees receive quality health care and the education they need to manage their disease," said APhA Foundation Chief Executive Officer William M. Ellis.

With diabetes responsible for a significant portion of the health care expenses for the City of New Orleans, the HealthMapRx program is expected to reduce the city's costs while improving health outcomes for employee participants. "The City of New Orleans is investing in its employees' well-being now, rather than paying expenses for chronic illnesses once they become catastrophic," commented Toni Fera, APhA Foundation senior director of patient self-management programs. "Making an investment in well-being has been proven to show cost savings for employers and improved health for employees."

The City of New Orleans is excited to provide its diabetic employees with the motivation and education that the HealthMapRx program offers. Morris- Anderson would like to see that all of the city's employees and their family members are tested for diabetes and enrolled in the program. She hopes to see a healthier, more vital workforce where employees will have the tools they need to better manage their diabetes.



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