Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) affects 9.4% of US adults and children, while another 33.9% of Americans are at risk of DM. Health care institutions face many barriers to systematically delivering the preventive care needed to decrease DM incidence. Community health workers (CHWs) may, as frontline public health workers bridging clinic and community, help overcome these challenges. This paper presents the protocol for a pragmatic, cluster-randomized trial integrating CHWs into two primary care clinics to support DM prevention for at-risk patients.
The trial will randomize 15 care teams, stratified by practice site (Bellevue Hospital and Manhattan VA), totaling 56 primary care physicians. The study cohort will consist of ~ 2000 patients who are 18–75 years of age, actively enrolled in a primary care team, able to speak English or Spanish, and have at least one glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) result in the prediabetic range (5.7–6.4%) since 2012. Those with a current DM diagnosis or DM medication prescription (other than metformin) are ineligible. The intervention consists of four core activities – setting health goals, health education, activation for doctor’s appointments, and referrals to DM prevention programs – adjustable according to the patient’s needs and readiness. The primary outcome is DM incidence. Secondary outcomes include weight loss, HbA1C, and self-reported health behaviors. Clinical variables and health behaviors will be obtained through electronic medical records and surveys, respectively. Implementation outcomes, namely implementation fidelity and physicians’ perspectives about CHW integration into the clinic, will be assessed using interviews and CHW activity logs and analyzed for the influence of moderating organizational factors.
This is the first rigorous, pragmatic trial to test the effectiveness of integrating CHWs into primary care for DM prevention reaching a population-based sample. Our study’s limitations include language-based eligibility and the use of HbA1c as a measure of DM risk. It will measure both clinical and implementation outcomes and potentially broaden the evidence base for CHWs and patient-centered medical home implementation. Further, the intervention’s unique features, notably patient-level personalization and referral to existing programs, may offer a scalable model to benefit patients at-risk of DM.
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT03006666 (Received 12/27/2016).