Diabetes and progression to diabetes complication is an epidemic nationwide. In order to provide education to prevent diabetes and prevent progression to diabetes complications, there is a need to reach more members of the community. Community-based programs are designed to reach people outside of traditional health care settings and maximize the efforts of diabetes education. The purpose of the community-based education is to prepare people with diabetes to have the skills and confidence to manage their disease on a daily basis and to manage its impact on life roles and emotions in an environment which is more convenient and familiar to the target population.
The community-based education settings may include:
- Work site
- Community center
- Place of worship
As a coordinator of community-based programs, I employed different settings to reach potential patients using existing social structures. While populations reached will sometimes overlap, people who are not accessible in one setting may be in another. Education that takes place in a community setting allows the diabetes educator to reach a larger number of patients. In my experience, using nontraditional settings can help encourage information sharing within communities through peer social interaction. Attendees are encouraged to share their experience with the groups and act as mentors. Reaching out to people in different settings also allows for greater tailoring of health information and education.
Initiating a diabetes education program requires research that involves evaluation of current existing programs and inquiry into the diabetes education unmet needs that the community is still facing. To prepare a curriculum for the program, I meet with a group of potential program participants, local healthcare providers, and leaders in the community to evaluate the barriers to improvement in glycemic control, lifestyle modification, and medication therapy. In addition, I tailor the scheduling of the education program based on the patient rather than professional convenience. Thus, educational activities may take place on Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons, or in the evenings. As oppose to using a lecture style presentation, I employ a discussion to emphasize teaching skills such as problem solving and decision making.
Developing a community-based program requires key strategies
- Clinical and operational leadership to develop and sustain an ongoing program
- Standardized education material. AADE website has bilingual patient education under “patient tip sheets” that can be used in a variety of group discussions.
- Periodic Feedback or program evaluation involving participants, families or friends, and their providers to analyze the benefits of the program based on improvements in key health outcomes.
Establishing and running a community based program has been a fulfilling experience for me and I believe that it can be a fulfilling experience for many diabetes educators who want to make a difference. The population that requires knowledge and access to diabetes programs is growing. As diabetes educators our education goal is to make a difference in reducing the rates of developing diabetes and improving the control of existing disease. In order to meet our goal, we must be able to offer information and support throughout the community where it is accessible to all and delivered in a format that is understood, regardless of literacy and socioeconomic status.