A diagnosis of diabetes can leave a person with a lot of questions. It is important to get accurate current information to know how to live with diabetes. Living with diabetes requires daily decisions that impact future health. The program helps patients understand the importance of meeting their diabetes treatment goals. By meeting these goals, they have greatly reduced the risk of complications of diabetes. 

For 18 years Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital has worked to help those with diabetes manage their condition and lead healthy lives through the Adult Diabetes Education Program, which was originally awarded by the American Diabetes Association Education Recognition Certificate in 1996, two years after the initial vision of the program.

The program allows for diabetics and their care partners to attend the classes. Many insurance programs cover the costs of the diabetes education.

“One of our focuses that we don’t get to do enough is preventative care and encouraging healthy lifestyles,” said Judy Hawkins, RPh, coordinator of the SBA Program.

She hopes everyone attending, whether diabetic or not, will pick up some healthy lifestyle tips. Behavior change is often needed to improve the patient’s health status. Healthy choices are not always encouraged in our culture. 

About half of those who go through the three-day program are newly diagnosed diabetics and they include patients from Butler, Greenwood, Elk, Wilson, Sedgwick and Marion counties.

“Really the next closest ADA program is in Parsons, Bartlesville, Emporia, or Wichita,” Hawkins said.

The instructional staff includes a  a variety of professionals, including optometrists, Drs. Joyce and Joyce; medical doctors, Drs. Cathy Cooper and Diane Nightengale; and other professionals. There also are nurses who do foot assessments and check blood sugar levels while patients are in the program.

There is everything from meal planning and exercise needs to emotional adjustment and eye care information. A teaching luncheon, designed to help people with diabetes make wise food choices, also is included.

“Diabetes is really controlled by the patient,” said Nightengale. “We have to empower them on a daily basis.”

Cooper agreed and felt that was what they were doing through the classes.

“When people get diagnosed it’s so overwhelming a disease,” Cooper said. “To give these days of education really helps them.”

“The individual attention is another thing I think makes us special,” said Hawkins.

She said they get to know the participants and their lifestyles, which helps them make more of a positive impact on their lives.

“I just feel like we’re trying to connect the dots for the patients,” Hawkins said, explaining they show why it is important to do those things said by a doctor. “A lot is trying to reduce risks.”

In all, they have two medical doctors, two optometrists, two nurses, one dietician, and  one pharmacist, who make up the instructors.

Hawkins said it is the dynamic of how they all work together that makes the program work so well.

“We all bring different things to the stage,” Hawkins said. “We’re all just a team.”

The American Diabetes Association’s Education Recognition 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 and 2007. Education Recognition status is verified by an official certificate from ADA and now is awarded for four years.