Hoping to save hundreds of lives, New York adopted a health code regulation this week that will make it the first American city to keep track of people with diabetes in much the same way it does with patients infected with HIV or tuberculosis. The city will occasionally use its database to prod diabetics to take better care of themselves.
The policy breaks new ground because it involves the collection of information about people who have a disease that is neither contagious nor caused by an environmental toxin. It has also raised privacy concerns in some quarters. New York's health commissioner, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, said the program's potential to save thousands of lives outweighs what it gives up in medical privacy. Under a revised city code passed by the Board of Health, most medical laboratories in New York will be required to electronically forward the results of thousands of blood-sugar tests to the city Health Department, which will then analyze the data to identify people having trouble controlling their diabetes. Some patients might then get letters or phone calls from their doctors, prodding them to take medication, come in more frequently for checkups or change their diet.