Education critical to help patients manage chronic disease
Sweet tea or unsweet? Apple or apple pie? Take a walk or take a nap?
Life is full of choices and even the smallest decisions about food, drink and daily activities can impact our health, especially for those with diabetes. As author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
For Parkland patient Patrick Sowells, 52, of Lancaster, the moment of truth came last December when his physician told him he had type 2 diabetes, a life-changing diagnosis. “She told me I needed to get my A1C under control to enjoy my life free of serious health complications.”
“Lifestyle decisions are critical in managing diabetes and reducing the risk for developing its most serious consequences, which can include blindness, amputation and even death,” said Kellie Rodriguez, MSN, MBA, CDE, Director, Diabetes Education & Community Engagement at the Global Diabetes Program (GDP) at Parkland Health & Hospital System.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, an important reminder of the need to focus attention on the disease and the tens of millions of Americans affected by it.
“Sub-optimal diabetes control can lead to poor diabetes outcomes. Diabetes is a disease of self-management, so we need to educate and empower patients to make the best possible choices they can in terms of nutrition, exercise, medication management, stress prevention and other lifestyle factors they can control,” Rodriguez stated.
Parkland provides group diabetes management classes through its Healthy Living with Diabetes Program at a number of its community health centers throughout Dallas County where patients learn how daily decisions impact their health. To expand the scope of its educational program, the GDP is creating a new Diabetes Education and Training Center in the former chapel on the first floor of old Parkland Memorial Hospital located at 5201 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas.
The center is expected to open by early 2017 and will provide diabetes education for patients as well as training for healthcare professionals across the Parkland system and the Dallas County community. Funding to launch the project was provided by a grant from the George and Fay Young Foundation.
“The center will provide a central location for evidence-based multidisciplinary education for people living with diabetes, their family members, the community and the health professionals delivering diabetes care,” said Luigi Meneghini, MD, MBA, Executive Director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland and Professor, Division of Endocrinology, UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Patient and community educational services will include group sessions covering a range of critical diabetes self-management topics as well as peer support initiatives, both essential in building the necessary knowledge, skills, motivation and confidence for positive long-term health outcomes. Technology at the center will facilitate interactive distance learning for providers and staff located at Parkland’s Community Oriented Primary Care health centers and beyond.
Diabetes has reached epidemic rates in the U.S. and Dallas County has a higher diabetes rate (11.4 percent) than the national average of 10.6 percent. The Diabetes Registry at Parkland has approximately 30,000 active patients, posing a significant challenge to provide quality care for the large number of people with this chronic disease, Dr. Meneghini said.
The Global Diabetes Program at Parkland is part of Parkland’s continuing efforts to combat diabetes. The program is patient-centered and multidisciplinary, involving physicians, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, behavioral health experts, social workers and financial experts across Parkland.
Lack of knowledge is a major barrier to good health for patients like Sowells who attended diabetes management sessions at Parkland’s Bluitt-Flowers Health Center. Since changing his diet and exercise habits, Sowells has lowered his A1C and lost weight. “I’m only 52 but I was really tired all the time before I took these classes,” he said.
A former athlete, he realized he “just wanted to sit on the sofa” before learning how to take better care of himself. He’s now playing basketball and walking several times a week.
“I was addicted to soda,” he said. “I would drink one or two cans a day, but I learned in the class to drink water instead.” And although he still loves to eat at his favorite fast food restaurants, he now orders a salad with grilled chicken instead of a burger with fries. “I try not to deprive myself,” he said, “but I’ve made good changes. I took it seriously and I feel a whole lot better.”
“Understanding how daily decisions affect their health empowers patients to control their diabetes rather than letting it control them,” Rodriguez said. “With diabetes, knowledge is power. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, a great time for everyone to learn more about this disease.”
The Healthy Living with Diabetes Education Program at Parkland is recognized by the American Diabetes Association. To learn more about Parkland’s Global Diabetes Program, visit www.parklandhospital.com or call 214.590.7219.