I connected with Amparo right after she took office early this year. I found her warm and open and realistic about the mine field that many patients face — which is extremely refreshing for someone on “the inside.”
A Guest Post by Amparo Gonzalez, current president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE)
When Amy approached me to write a guest blog on “new directions in diabetes education,” I was thrilled because diabetes education is currently in a period of transformation.
Healthcare providers are adopting a more collaborative relationship with their patients who have diabetes, working in tandem to define goals and develop strategies for achieving those goals. This is welcome news since 95% of the care to patients with self-managed illnesses like diabetes is handled by the patient themselves.
Another trend gaining traction in the medical community is an increased focus on health literacy. In a nutshell, it’s providing patients advice, guidance and instruction in an easy-to-understand manner. AADE embraced this concept several years ago when we developed a user-friendly framework for identifying and setting diabetes self-management goals. If you’re not already familiar with it, check out the AADE7™ Self-Care Behaviors and download our guidebook. It identifies seven areas of focus when managing diabetes: Healthy Eating, Being Active, Monitoring, Taking Medications, Problem Solving, Reducing Risks and Healthy Coping.
While there are other trends in the industry, I know my space is limited. Therefore, the one I want to particularly highlight is where I see diabetes education moving, literally. AADE has recognized that a key way to combat the growing diabetes epidemic is to provide patients with access to diabetes education in the manner most convenient for them. No longer is it good enough to wait for people to go to their doctor or get their care in hospital emergency room. AADE is working to move diabetes educators into the community so more people, especially underserved populations, can benefit from their services.
My personal experience mirrors this movement we’re seeing from the hospital-setting and into the community. When I started in the field back in 1992, I was part of a hospital-based program, primarily serving people actually admitted to the hospital. Then, in 1997, I opened my hospital’s first outpatient diabetes education program, expanding my reach a little more. (You frequently see those programs listed in your local hospital’s fliers.) In 2005, however, I read the “coffee” leaves (I am from Colombia!) and started a community-based diabetes program in neighborhood clinics and YMCAs. I offered my classes in Spanish, which is my native language.
I firmly believe that this shift in how and where we provide diabetes care is critical if we are to halt the spread of diabetes. People with diabetes want to stay healthy and live longer lives, but they also prefer to obtain healthcare services and ongoing support in the communities where they live, play, work and worship. Going out of their way for a service they will seek on regular basis in out of the question. Am I right?
One initiative we’re involved with is Peers for Progress, which is being lead by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. Our goal is to identify and train lay volunteers with diabetes to become diabetes mentors. These mentors will then assist others with diabetes better manage the emotional, social and daily self-care demands of their disease.
So, what does this mean for the person with diabetes? If you’re seeking diabetes education, it means your care options will expand and your support network will increase in the coming years. Diabetes educators will be found in many non-traditional settings and they will be increasingly partnering with peer counselors/diabetes mentors to improve your chances of permanently adopting your new healthier behaviors and help get through your everyday challenges.
Amparo wants you to know: Diabetes educators are licensed healthcare providers — nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, among others — who focus on helping people with diabetes understand their disease and learn how to adjust their lifestyle and behavior so that they can develop diabetes self-management skills. To find a diabetes educator in your area, go to www.diabeteseducator/find, or call 1-800-TEAMUP4.