Making It Easy to Manage Diabetes

WDD-WTOne out of every 11 people in the United States—or about 29.1 million people—have been diagnosed with diabetes in the United States, while one in four people remain undiagnosed and untreated. But providing quality medical care to these patients is just one part of the equation. In order for patients to more easily adopt the healthy habits that sustain wellness, Erie Family Health Center also offers them free, monthly diabetes education classes—called Diabetes Month-by-Month.

Diabetes Month-by-Month provides a way for diabetic or pre-diabetic patients to cultivate a deeper understanding of their illness within the safety of a support group. Together, and with the support of a health educator or provider, the group navigates monthly topics such as stress management, grocery shopping, nutrition, complications that can result from diabetes, and more.

Liliana Luna, Diabetes Health Educator at Erie’s West Town location, works closely with Erie’s doctors to identify patients who may benefit from Diabetes Month-by-Month. After a patient’s medical appointment, the doctor might ask Luna to step in and take over the appointment from there. “Providers will say, ‘I have a patient here whose levels are really high—can you let them know what changes they needs to start making before something happens?’” And that’s when she tells patients about the free class.

“It’s a really big issue,” continued Luna. “If I teach them how to eat accordingly and also teach them how to manage to have lower levels of glucose, then they don’t have to take as much medication. Maybe we see them once every six months.”

The beginning of November brought on Erie-wide celebrations in recognition of Diabetes Awareness Day. At Erie West Town, Luna handed out healthy morning snacks in the waiting area, led an open aerobics exercise class, and held a Diabetes Month-by-Month session called ‘Ask the Provider.’ In this session, patients had the opportunity to ask Erie doctor Julie Osborne any question about diabetes they had.

But it’s when patients take what they’ve learned throughout the class and apply it in their lives that they are truly able to take charge of their own health, as well as the health of their families. Thirty-two-year-old Clara* is just one example of a patient whose quality of life improved through the class. Clara was overweight and had high glucose levels when she first started Diabetes Month-by-Month in June this year. Since then, she has completely transformed her eating habits, lost weight, and taught her husband and children how to eat healthier, too.

“Seeing patients being able to manage their diabetes without taking medications like insulin and living a normal life…that’s really powerful for me,” said Luna. “That’s the most rewarding part of my job.”

*name changed to protect patient’s privacy

Did you know? Diabetes Month-by-Month is just one of the programs that Eriedescence 2016 helps to fund.