Diabetes education significantly improves outcomes among people with the condition, leading to reduced blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to data presented by the Diabetes Self-Management Education Program from New York-Presbyterian Hospital at the American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting & Exhibition.

In the study, 1,263 people with diabetes living in a low-income urban area with a high immigrant population received four 30-minute one-on-one sessions with diabetes educators to learn about and work on the American Association of Diabetes Educators' Seven Self-Care Behaviors: healthy eating, being active, monitoring, taking medication, problem solving, healthy coping and reducing risks. Additionally, they participated in group sessions with diabetes educators to help them focus on their choice of one or more of those behaviors. Good self-management of diabetes is key to decreasing the complications of the condition, including heart disease, blindness and kidney problems.

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After 15 months of working with a diabetes educator, participants on average lowered their A1C levels by 67% and their LDL cholesterol levels by 53%. After receiving diabetes education, 25% of patients had high blood pressure, compared to 32% prior to the study. The A1C test measures the concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood, a reflection of how well the diabetes is being controlled. Ideally, A1C levels should be below 7%; and there was a 7% increase in the participants who achieved this goal over the course of the study.

“Diabetes education is not only helpful, it’s necessary for people with the condition. It’s designed to empower patients to self-manage and reach their goals,” said Lovelyamma Varghese, MS, FNP, BC, RN, and Director of Nursing Practice and quality for the Ambulatory Care Network at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York. “We’ve shown this program can really work. Our patient-centered approach prioritizes our patients’ needs. As diabetes educators, we partner with providers, fellow dietitians and nurses, community health workers and most importantly, patients. We can go into their homes, speak their language, identify opportunities for behavioral changes, even open the fridge and see what’s in there—it’s a partnership.”

The patients worked with diabetes educators as part of their care through a holistic patient-centered medical home approach, including coordination of care between providers and culturally competent communication.