Merck's new site tries to help "tackle" diabetes

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Mike Golic
Mike Golic

Merck and ESPN's Mike Golic kicked off a new diabetes education program Wednesday that offers patients help navigating a type-2 diabetes diagnosis. The project is called the Blood Sugar Basics Game Plan. Its website, bloodsugarbasics.com, offers quizzes, facts, and a four-step Game Plan that can help patients approach both the diagnosis and lifestyle changes it makes necessary.

The project was overseen by three “coaches”: the former NFL-er and current diabetic Golic; Farhad Zangeneh, the medical director of the Endocrine, Diabetes and Osteoporosis Clinic in Sterling, VA; and Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist.

“Managing diabetes can seem overwhelming for patients, particularly if they feel the pressure to change everything about their lifestyle all at once,” Zangeneh said in a statement.

Zangeneh added that  the Game Plan, which includes phases such as meeting with a doctor to discuss next steps (“The Huddle”), how to incorporate better eating habits (“Enter the Nutrition Zone”), exercising (“Get into the Game”) and tracking goals and successes (“Check the Scoreboard”) is designed to be broad enough to provide critical information, while also providing prompts that can help doctors and patients address individual needs.

Although the promotional material describes the Scoreboard as an opportunity to promote a patient's success, the website reinforces the adherence factor which is critical to keeping diabetes under control. The site tells visitors to take credit for finishing steps one to three, but to also sit down with a healthcare provider and create a new “Playbook” that includes new goals or revisits previous ones that need some extra work.

“The key is to become educated, and the Blood Sugar Basics Game Plan is designed to encourage people with type-2 diabetes to learn more about their condition and take steps to better manage it,” Golic said in a statement. Golic, who was a defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Oilers and Miami Dolphins, also noted that he is “still continuing to learn about diabetes six years after my diagnosis.”

The CDC estimates that type-2 diabetes accounts for between 90% and 95% of all diabetes cases, with the remainder falling under type-1 diabetes (gestational diabetes) and to the rarer type of diabetes that is linked to other causes, such as illnesses or infection. The disease affects multiple organs, and is associated with an elevated risk of cancer and heart disease. It's become so widespread that the CDC has declared it a national epidemic.

The health agency's latest data also shows that diabetes patients typically have medical costs that outpace patients without diabetes by more than 50%.

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