|By Kevin Kumler,
Nowhere are health equity issues more apparent than in type 2 diabetes. For those in disadvantaged communities, and for certain racial and ethnic minority groups (in particular Black, Native American, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander populations), rates of diabetes far surpass the national average. We know that social determinants of health (SDOH) —factors that include access to food, housing, education and healthcare—play a key role in these disparities.
Virta Health is a telehealth provider clinically proven to reverse type 2 diabetes with a food as medicine approach, instead of drugs or surgery. Our fully virtual clinic eliminates the friction associated with traditional medicine, and each patient’s personalized nutrition therapy reflects their income level and cultural preferences. But in tandem with these efforts to address SDOH, we wanted to better understand how effective Virta is for patients from different backgrounds in order to improve how we serve our patients. To do this, we looked at patient outcomes by Area Deprivation Index (ADI), and by self-reported race and ethnicity.
The ADI is used as a proxy for socioeconomic conditions within a U.S. geographic area. Areas are ranked by level of deprivation, then split into quintiles. Group “1” includes the nation’s least disadvantaged areas, and group “5” includes the most disadvantaged areas. In our analysis, we found that 27% of our patients come from the two most disadvantaged groups in the country.1 Regardless of socioeconomic disadvantage, Virta helps people significantly improve their HbA1c by average reductions of 1.2 to 1.3%, while deprescribing over half of diabetes drugs, other than metformin.2 For patients with economic barriers, HbA1c is often treated with low-cost drugs first, but if that’s not enough, more expensive drugs are added. Virta can help overcome financial barriers by lowering HbA1c while reducing the need for medications.
Similar results are true for race and ethnicity. All racial and ethnic groups had at least a one point drop in HbA1c with Virta, ranging from 1.1% to 1.4%. 3 Notably, after 6 months the average HbA1c of each group met the ADA treatment target of less than 7.0%. Some groups even reached the sub-diabetic threshold of less than 6.5%. Every 1% decrease in HbA1c is associated with reduced risk for complications like cardiovascular events, kidney disease, and eye problems.
These outcomes are encouraging, but the work is far from over. To achieve our goal of reversing type 2 diabetes in 100M people, we must continue to reduce disparities in care. Our patients motivate us to double down on efforts to better serve diverse populations:
In the words of Elizabeth, a former Virta patient, “I’m a Native American, and diabetes is rampant in our community. We are constantly seeing the horrors of diabetes, including progressive sickness, blindness, kidney issues, amputations, and sometimes even death. It’s important to me to convey the hope for a healthier life that Virta has brought me to other Native Americans so that they can experience this lifestyle change like I did.”
At Virta we are committed to learning from our patients, investing in our clinical care, and measuring our outcomes. To learn more about our healthy equity efforts, visit virtahealth.com/health-equity or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read Virta Health Program Validation Report HERE.
1 Patient data: Virta Health Registry, T2D Reversal Enterprise, Self-Pay, and Clinical Trial patients enrolled with ADI data available, July 2022. Groups 4 and 5 represent people living in the top 40% most disadvantaged areas of the United States.
2 Population includes patients enrolled in Virta’s type 2 diabetes reversal program as of July 2022 who are retained for more than 180 days.(Cohort of n=7031)
3 Population includes patients enrolled in Virta’s type 2 diabetes reversal program who were treated for more than 180 days as of July 2022. (Cohort of N=7031)