Despite the fact that more than 100 million people in the United States have diabetes or prediabetes, there are many misconceptions about the disease. That’s why Augusta Health is proud to offer the Diabetes Self Management Education Program.
Kara Meeks, MS, RDN, CDE, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator, recalls how one woman with diabetes recently came into the program and sat down and cried. The woman was under the assumption that because of her diagnosis, she couldn’t eat any starches or sugars.
“She was this teeny-tiny lady, and all she was eating was veggies and a little bit of meat,” Meeks says. “She was just terrified to eat. We’re the people who can help fix that. We can advocate for the patient and teach them about their condition. We dig a little deeper.”
A comprehensive program
The Diabetes Self Management Education Program at Augusta Health is a program accredited by the American Diabetes Association that brings educational services to diabetic patients in the community. The program involves 30–60-minute individual sessions with diabetes educators, as well as classes called Diabetes 101 and Meal Planning for Diabetes.
The program is located in the Heart and Vascular Center of the main hospital, but diabetes educators also visit patients at the Diabetes & Endocrinology Clinic, the Lexington Multispecialty Clinic and the Primary Care clinic in Fishersville.
The classes and individual sessions cover seven important healthcare behaviors related to living with diabetes:
- Healthy eating
- Maintaining an active lifestyle
- Monitoring (blood sugar and keeping a food diary)
- Taking medication
- Problem-solving and overcoming barriers
- Healthy coping and getting support
- Reducing your risk through regular checkups
The Diabetes Self Management Education Program is for people who have been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. All patients must have a healthcare provider referral to participate in the program.
Participants can be recently diagnosed patients or those who have lived with the condition for years. “If you’ve had diabetes for several years and you just need a refresher, you can get a referral and we can see you,” Meeks says.
One of the components of the program is monitoring a patient’s A1C level, which is a two- to three-month average of a patient’s blood sugar. “Patients who completed our outpatient program in 2017 reduced their A1C on average by two points,” says Jean Magee, MEd, RDH, CDE, a diabetes educator at Augusta Health. “That’s a significant drop in blood sugar.”
In addition, Magee says that of the patients who completed the outpatient education program in 2017, none was readmitted to the hospital with diabetic emergencies, worsening of their condition or complications due to their diabetes.
Over 631,000 Virginians have diabetes, or 1 in every 11 people in the state. Meeks says a community health needs assessment was completed in 2016, and over 50 percent of respondents said they believed diabetes was a major problem in the community.
Helping this patient population is a crucial mission at Augusta Health. “We provide high-quality, evidence-based education services to diabetic patients in our area,” Meeks says.