The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is offering employees a new chance to be healthy and overcome a costly, chronic disease: diabetes. This year, the department will offer Journey for Control, a program that teaches the basics about diabetes and how to live healthfully with the disease.
The program is for employees who have diabetes or are prediabetic and for anyone who wants to learn more about the disease or those who may be helping a family member or friend cope with diabetes.
“This program is another way for us to support our employees and help them learn and adopt healthy behaviors,” said Meshell McCloud, DPH’s deputy chief nurse.
Journey for Control, a program created by pharmaceutical company Merck, relies on the power of group engagement and discussion to teach important lessons about diabetes. Sessions of the program are guided by conversation maps, each focusing on one of four topics: the basics of diabetes; the relationship between diabetes and healthy behaviors, such as exercise and a proper diet; monitoring blood glucose; and the long-term management of the disease. The sessions are guided by trained facilitators -- nurses, pharmacists and nutritionists -- who provide expertise but also guide group members to discuss and learn together. Last October, eight licensed DPH employees were trained as Journey for Control facilitators to lead sessions for department employees. One of them is Kimberley Hazelwood, Pharm.D., pharmacy director at DPH's State Office of Pharmacy, who said she sees value in the program's format.
"The imagery of the maps and interactive tools create a method that most people can find comfort in engaging and seeking knowledge," she said. "The diagnosis of being a diabetic can be stressful. I hope to decrese some of that stress by creating an open, engaging discussion that helps each one find new skills to become effective self-mangers."
The group approach is important for a disease like diabetes. Health experts are increasingly recommending group support and education as an important part of diabetes care. Groups like the American Diabetes Association say people with diabetes can benefit greatly by learning from others with the disease. But in Georgia, only half of adults with diabetes have participated in any type of formal diabetes self-management education course or class to learn skills needed to successfully manage their glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol control and reduce their risk for developing diabetes-related complications.
Robert Harshman, M.D., medical director of Georgia Power and the Trojan Battery Company and member of Georgia’s Board of Public Health, has helped implement similar programs for employees at those companies. He said participants often truly want to connect with others who are living with the disease, in addition to hearing a doctor’s advice.
“Group participation, especially with diabetes, is an invaluable opportunity for people to share their experiences, what works for them, what they’ve found to be helpful,” Harshman said. “Journey for Control has a good success rate in being able to reach a group of people at once and for them to teach each other.”
Journey for Control is a follow-up to InSTEP, the diabetes control program launched by DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. in 2012.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the country, and it takes an enormous financial toll. In Georgia, the total yearly cost of diabetes is $5.1 billion, which includes $3.3 billion in direct medical costs and just under $2 billion in lost productivity and absence from work or school.
Nearly one in 10 Georgians lives with diabetes, and if current trends continue, those numbers are expected to grow.
“We’ve been surprised, and not in a good way, at how many people are moving quickly on the path to cardiometaboloic syndrome, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease,” Harshman said. “Whatever we can do to make an impact on this, we have to try it.”
DPH will offer Journey for Control classes in February. Employees who are interested in joining should sign up by Jan. 31. Contact Meshell McCloud (email@example.com) for more information and to sign up for the program.