Diabetes Education is Back in Sweetwater County Thanks to Collaboration Between MHSC and Sweetwater County Board of Health

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SWEETWATER COUNTY – Through a collaborative effort between Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and Sweetwater County Board of Health, Diabetes education is once again available to the public.

The prestigious American Diabetes Association Education Recognition Certificate for a quality diabetes self-management education program was recently awarded to the Sweetwater County Diabetes Self-Management Program. ADA believes this program offers high-quality education that is an essential component of effective diabetes treatment.

Program Director and MHSC Board member Grant Christensen said it is a great recognition and is like getting certification from any certifying board, only a lot harder than most.

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Like Christensen said, getting the recognition is not as easy as one may think. The certificate assures that educational programs meet the National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education Programs. These standards were developed and tested under the auspices of the National Diabetes Advisory Board in 1983 and were revised by the diabetes community in 1994, 2000, 2007 and 2012.

Christensen said there are 10 “rigorous” conditions which have to be met. He added these conditions are not easy because the association wants to make sure the programs who are providing diabetes education are providing the best and most current information.

Programs apply for recognition voluntarily. Programs that achieve recognition status have a staff of knowledgeable health professionals who can provide participants with comprehensive information about diabetes management.

“The process gives professionals a national standard by which to measure the quality of service they provide,” Christensen said.

Diabetes and Program coordinator Lisa Sanders added to Christensen’s comments.

“And, of course, it assures the consumer that he or she will likely receive high quality services,” she said.

Education recognition status is verified by an official certificate from ADA and awarded for four years.

The local group started the process last November and have been working with patients since March. The group explained working with real clients was part of the 10 standards the group had to meet. There were several reasons why the group started this process but the major one was there has not been a diabetes education program in Sweetwater County for approximately six years.

To get the certification, MHSC and the local Board of Health combined resources to accomplish this and fill the hole in the community. With it starting as a collaboration, the group is always looking for additional resources.

“Any support group is welcome at our table,” Christensen said.

One thing which the program offers at this point is one-on-one interaction with a licensed dietician. Sanders said they are able to do this now but as the program grows they may not be able to. She added if interested participants want more of a one-on-one experience now is a great time to get started. Rachel Blundell, a registered dietician with MHSC, will provide dietary counseling for DSME clients.

Another reason the groups went to work on the certification is the numbers of people who can take advantage of it. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 29.1 million people or 9.3 percent of the population in the United States who have diabetes. While an estimated 21 million have been diagnosed, unfortunately, 8.1 million people are not aware that they have this disease. Each day approximately 4,657 people are diagnosed with diabetes.

Christensen broke these numbers down further. He said 7 percent of residents in Sweetwater County have diabetes. That is approximately 3,000 people who could take advantage of the program. He added there are many more which are considered border-line diabetics.

Many will first learn that they have diabetes when they are treated for one of its life-threatening complications – heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness and nerve disease and amputation.

About 1.7 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older in 2012 in the US Diabetes contributed to 234,051 deaths in 2010, making it the seventh leading cause of death in the US. Overall, the risk for death among people with diabetes is about twice that of people of similar age but without diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association is the nation’s leading nonprofit health organization supporting diabetes research, advocacy and information for health professional, patients and the public. Founded in 1940, the association has an area office in every state and conducts programs in communities nationwide.

The next step for the local group is getting the word out and letting people know this service is now available to the public. The program does not have a limit on how many people can participate. To take part in the program, the patient will need to have a referral letter from a doctor. The group said they will help people interested in the program to get this referral. Residents can call the community office at 922-5390 for more information. There is also a Facebook piece to the program.

For more information on recognized education programs in your area or other ADA programs, call you local ADA office or contact the ADA online at www.diabetes.org/erp.

The group responsible for bringing the program back to Sweetwater County included MHSC, Sweetwater County Board of Health and Community Nursing, Christensen, Sanders, Blundell, Kristy Nielson, Deb Gaspar, Jennifer Haviland, Marilynn Nomis, Robert Wallendorff, Dr. Melinda Poyer, Lori Heitz, Dr. David Okano, Dr. John Aaron and Lisa Pawlowski.