Patient Care: Doctors and Diabetes

Patient Care: Doctors and Diabetes

 

Q&A with Pauline Lowe on Taking Advantage of All the Education Resources for Optimum Diabetes Management

Over 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and another 86 million are living with prediabetes.  That’s a third of the nation affected by this illness, so chances are you’ve had your fair share of diabetic patients.  We talked to Pauline Lowe, who is the regional director of community health strategies at the American Diabetes Association Southeast Region, and she shared some tips for how doctors can be supportive of patient efforts to control their diabetes.

Central Florida Doctor (CFDr): When a doctor sees a diabetes risk in a patient, what sort of information should they be sharing with the patient?

Pauline Lowe: The most important thing they should share if they find a patient who is at risk for Type 2 diabetes is that this kind of diabetes can be prevented.  There was a huge research study that was done several years ago, called the Diabetes Prevention Program, and it had three different arms.  One was giving patients medication, another was giving patients education, which included lifestyle changes and nutrition education, and the third, of course, was a control arm where they did nothing.  They stopped this study early because the group that was getting the lifestyle change education was showing such a lower percentage of people who were actually going on to develop diabetes when they were in the prediabetes stage that they felt that they couldn’t in good conscience continue the study because they needed to start educating people and helping them make the lifestyle change.  From that came the Diabetes Prevention Program that is coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control.  The Diabetes Prevention Program is a year-long program that has 16 intensive sessions.  It focuses on nutrition, education, and preventing Type 2 diabetes.  There are lots of programs around Central Florida that physicians can refer their patients to.  Some are run by YMCA, some are run by hospitals, some are stand-alone programs, some are free clinics.

 

CFDr: Is there anything you currently see lacking in what the medical community communicates to their patients regarding diabetes?

Lowe: One of the things that is most important to a person, whether it’s preventing Type 2 diabetes (or preventing diabetes complications in care), is education, because 90 percent of diabetes care is self-management.  It’s not medication, it’s not going to see the doctor.  A person has to be able to understand exactly what’s happening within their body when they eat, and when they take their medicine, and when they exercise.  So one of the things that we in the organization would like to see a whole lot more of is referral to education programs, whether it be diabetes self-management programs for those who have diabetes, or diabetes prevention programs for those who are at risk.  The more people who know about diabetes and the more information they have, the better they will do.

 

CFDr: What is something doctors can do to help their patients who are struggling to control their diabetes?

Lowe: There are several different things.  Of course, there is the referral to education programs.  If the person doesn’t have insurance or they have a high deductible, and they don’t have the means to pay for that, then there are some free programs that are available through the American Diabetes Association.  For example, for people with Type 2 diabetes there’s a program called Living With Diabetes.  That is a year-long program, and about every two months, information will be provided to a person to help them learn more about their diabetes and how to manage it, with some healthy tips and recipes, and encouragement to increase activity.  This program is available in English or Spanish and it can either be mailed or they can receive it electronically.

 

CFDr: How does the American Diabetes Association provide support and resources for doctors to help patients manage their diabetes?

Lowe: We focus a lot on providing education to primary care providers, diabetes specialists, nurse educators, and the entire diabetes care team.  The second largest of the profession education activities that we offer is the annual Clinical Conference, and that’s going to be in Orlando at the end of May.  This is a wonderful opportunity for local healthcare providers to really hear the latest information about diabetes management.

 

And then in June, the largest program offered each year by the American Diabetes Association takes place, and that’s our annual Scientific Sessions.  That will be happening in San Diego, and focuses a lot on the science.  The difference between the two is that if you are a primary care provider, you’re probably not interested in all the heavy science, what you want to know is what that science means to you as a clinician, and how can that science improve care for patients.  So the Clinical Conference really focuses on improving clinical care for people with diabetes.
Overall, the American Diabetes Association is an excellent resource for doctors and ARNPs to make use of when educating their patients on this widespread disease.

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