Innovative Program: Offers People with Diabetes the Power to Improve Their Own Health

For most people with type 2 diabetes, successful outcomes of the disease usually rely more on living a healthy lifestyle, rather than a medicine chest of prescription drugs.

Because it is such a self-managed disease, several high-profile groups are collaborating to create a new kind of the support group to help people stay on track and better manage their diabetes.

The program is collaboration between the National Council on Aging, the YMCA, WellPoint and OASIS, a national service organization for those 50 and older, with financial support from Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation.

While there are numerous support groups available for those with diabetes, this particular group brings together health care providers, dieticians, fitness experts and more, creating an affordable support program aimed at helping the nearly 26 million people with diabetes cope with their disease.

Available both face-to-face and online; the multi-partner program addresses the key challenges facing those with diabetes – diet and exercise – providing experts to help motivate and encourage when needed.

“Managing diabetes can be a daunting task, and most people receive little or no education,” said Mark B. McClellan, MD, Ph.D., director of the Health Care Value and Innovation program at Brookings and former administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Diabetes education has usually been taught by health professionals in clinical settings. With the growing rates of diabetes, and with new and more effective ways to reach people in the community, that model needs to change.”

Rather than a few sessions in a clinical setting, the new program includes a six-week workshop taught by trained peer leaders, many of whom also have diabetes. The workshops help participants learn more about their condition and set measurable goals to better their health. The sessions include tips and tools to help them monitor blood sugar, food, medication and exercise, creating a weekly action plan while addressing both setbacks and successes.

All information meets American Diabetes Association guidelines.

It is based on a program originally developed at Stanford University and currently offers in-person workshops in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Atlanta. Online workshops are available for the rest of the country.

“We are partners in this project because it is figuring out how to open the door for community-based organizations to be formally contracted and reimbursed by health plans to provide effective diabetes education to patients—especially heavily affected seniors — in new ways,” said John L. Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “We see it as the future of health care — a model where patients, providers, community organizations, and insurers work together to scale high-quality care, reduce costs, and improve outcomes for people with diabetes.”

Those with type 2 who are interested in enrolling in an online workshop can visit To sign up for an in-person workshop or for more information, call (866) 553-1282.

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