DIABETES EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE ESSENTIAL

DIABETES EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE ESSENTIAL

DIABETES EDUCATION PROGRAMS ARE ESSENTIAL

by Roseanne Braiotta
(Program Manager, Diabetes Education & Treatment
Center, White Plains Hospital Center, NY)

Diabetes has a major impact on the lives of 16 million Americans
and their families. Health care costs for diabetes continue to climb, and people
with diabetes have average medical costs almost four times higher than people
without diabetes. Diabetes affects more Americans, and costs more money, than
AIDS and breast cancer combined (an estimated $100 billion each year). It is
the seventh leading cause of death in the United States today. Can anything
be done?
Yes. The good news is that there is a simple and effective way
for people to arm themselves for the diabetes battle--Diabetes Education Programs.
Such programs are essential in helping individuals with diabetes to understand
the importance of proper blood sugar control. People with diabetes are at higher
risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease,
nerve damage and amputations. Studies have proven that people who manage their
blood sugar can significantly reduce the onset and severity of complications.
The Diabetes Education and Treatment Center (DETC) at White
Plains Hospital Center, White Plains, NY, is one example of how a patient education
program helps set a solid foundation for better diabetes care. The DETC, an
outpatient education program recognized by the American Diabetes Association,
is designed to provide patients with the necessary knowledge and skills for
successful diabetes self-management. Patients are shown the significant role
they play in self-managing their diabetes, and in maintaining the delicate balance
between diet, exercise and medication. They receive individual and/or group
instruction on topics such as: understanding diabetes, how medications and insulin
work, blood glucose monitoring, diet and nutrition, complications, exercise,
managing stress and coping with psychosocial issues. Most sessions are taught
by a Registered Nurse and a Registered Dietitian, both of whom are Certified
Diabetes Educators. Patients can receive anywhere between 4-15 hours of education
over a two to three month time period. As time constraints make this type of
extensive education virtually impossible to obtain at a physician's office,
doctors welcome the opportunity to refer their patients to centers like the
DETC to ensure their patients receive more complete diabetes education.
A team approach, and rapport, are developed between patient,
diabetes educator and the patient's physician. Physicians are kept informed
of their patient's progress, and patients are encouraged to pursue routine follow
up care with their physician, especially Hemoglobin A1c (also known as HbA1c)
testing. The HbA1c test is an indicator of blood sugar control over a two to
three month period. It is recommended that this test be done every three months,
or at the very least, twice a year. After mastering the lessons of diabetes
self management, most patients see a decrease in their HbA1c.
If diabetes education has such wonderful benefits, why don't
all diabetics receive it as a matter of course? Some mistakenly believe such
education is not important because they "feel O.K. now" or that because
they are taking a pill, or insulin, their diabetes is under control. Many people
underestimate, or simply lack the knowledge, of how serious diabetes really
is. Far too many people have waited until experiencing some sort of complication
before they start to take their diabetes seriously. Diabetes is easier to ignore,
if you don't have first-hand facts and information. Some people do not know
that programs like the DETC exist. Cost is sometimes an issue. Although many
health care plans (Medicare and some Managed Care) offer coverage for diabetes
education, not all plans do. Costs for diabetes education vary by program and
state. Fees could range from $95-$125 per one-hour session, with group instruction
costing slightly less. It is important that people check with their insurance
company to inquire about their specific coverage. It is also important to note
that even if a person's insurance does not cover diabetes education, they should
strongly consider paying for services out of pocket. Money spent on diabetes
education is a worthwhile long-term investment in a person's overall health
and well being.
Increased diabetes awareness and education will undoubtedly
help reduce the health complications which have long been associated with this
disease--therefore, also helping to decrease diabetes-related health care costs.
Whether an individual has had diabetes for years or is newly diagnosed, diabetes
education programs can enlighten and motivate that person to live a happier,
healthier lifestyle. For information on the diabetes program at White Plains
Hospital Center, call 914-681-1228. For information on programs in your local
area ask your physician or call your local hospital or local chapter of the
American Diabetes Association.

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