World diabetes day is slowly approaching. A day to bring awareness and news on the progress of our efforts as health care professionals to care for the 23.6 million people living with diabetes in this country. The bad news is that the rate of diabetes in our community has and is increasing. Statistics has shown a 13.5% increase in diabetes patients from 2005 to 2007. The good news is that people are being diagnosed sooner in their diabetes which gives them more options to live a healthier life without medications but of these newly diagnosed patients only a small fraction are given any quality health information about diabetes.
Most patients living with diabetes get their knowledge about their condition from family and friends and unfortunately most of the information is not only false but can hurt them in the long run. Quality diabetes programs teach people living with diabetes the things they don’t know, that they don’t know, Such as “Sugar Free” foods can affect their diabetes just as much as the “real thing”. Through this type of discovery and knowledge, patients build up their tools and understanding about what truly effects blood glucose levels. This type of misinformation is one of the reasons that diabetes is on the top of the most costly chronic conditions that we live with in our society.
People have been told to live a healthy life but never given the tools to live that life. Quality, results driven diabetes centers can change the landscape of diabetes in our community by educating patients about their diabetes the right way. Not by blaming people about their diabetes but by providing people with the tools to realize, cope, understand and take actions to manage their diabetes, emphasizing not only the clinical and technical facts but also the important emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes as well .
Unfortunately there are not many centers out there that offer this type of patient focused results driven programs. In order to control the rise of diabetes and the obesity epidemic we need to drastically change the way that we view and perform health education. Education does not come in a book, poster or a pamphlet; it comes from patients having tough conversations with people that they trust in an environment that ensures a safe and open forum to open up and accept the information. Amidst all the debate on health reform one thing is clear, the government and health care professionals cannot do it alone, patients need to be empowered to think and act towards their own health knowledge. That can only be done through increased, easier access to quality diabetes education programs. I have done it and seen it and it works!!
I can only hope that health reform will reflect the importance of this issue.