ORLANDO (Reuters Health) - Investigators are reporting early promising results with a program that trains lay volunteers to help people with diabetes achieve better control of their blood sugar.
The community-based program was launched in the greater St. Louis, Missouri, area late last year.
“We have seen improvements in dietary behaviors, monitoring, and (blood sugar) in our target population of underserved diabetic patients,” Dr. Julio Leey of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told Reuters Health at the 70th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) where he and colleagues reported their findings.
The program was developed in 2008 following the release of a community health assessment project undertaken by the St. Louis Diabetes Coalition, which revealed limitations to the management of people with diabetes residing in the area.
For example, the assessment found that hospitals run nearly all of the structured diabetes education programs in the region and that these programs were not sufficient to satisfy demand.
The Washington University Diabetes Center (WUDC) recruits lay volunteers who undergo extensive training after which they lead support groups twice a week for 12 weeks where they teach participants about diabetes self-management and help them develop a personal management plan.
“Notably, lay leaders, who work entirely on a voluntary basis, are the backbone of this program and have committed themselves to the region and their communities,” Leey said.
Results in 164 diabetics who have participated in the program thus far show improvement in blood sugar levels over time. The improvement in blood sugar control was marginally related to weight loss, with individuals who lost more weight achieving better control of their blood sugar.
The number of days each week that participants adhered to a recommended eating plan and the number of days each week they monitored their blood pressure as recommended were also improved.
Leey and his co-authors emphasized that “the need for sustainable, cost-effective solutions to the diabetes epidemic makes this type of program imperative.”
The diabetes self-management program, which received funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health, is coordinated through the Washington University School of Medicine Diabetes Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital with support from the Diabetes Research and Training Center.