By Michele Pilon
President/CNO, Transylvania Regional Hospital
Since November is American Diabetes Month, I’d like to talk about how diabetes impacts our community, and what Transylvania Regional Hospital is doing to help community members manage or even avoid developing diabetes. Healthy lifestyle habits like good food choices and ensuring physical activity are potent tools everyone can use to reduce their risk.
A recent Community Health Needs Assessment revealed that Transylvania’s top health concerns are obesity and lack of physical activity. Unfortunately, our region’s residents suffer from diabetes in greater numbers than the national average, and we are considered part of the United States “diabetes belt” a name given to the region of the nation with excess diabetes prevalence. In some ways even worse, a stunning 84 million adults have prediabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Prediabetes is a condition where a person has higher-than-normal blood glucose levels, but doesn’t meet the criteria – yet – to diagnose with diabetes; and most of these people don’t even know it.
Our Diabetes Educator Teri Redmond, MSN, MS, ANP-C, has implemented the innovative Transylvania Regional Hospital Diabetes Prevention Program for community members who are at risk for diabetes or have prediabetes. She studied CDC-recognized lifestyle change programs that are evidence-based, and a program that hospitals partner with YMCAs to facilitate diabetes prevention or management, called Taking Control of Type 2 (TCT2). “Since there isn’t a YMCA nearby in our community, I looked at how we could model our program on the most important parts of both programs: harnessing the investment of our patients,” said Redmond.
The TRH program received initial approval in September, 2017 and the first module started in January, 2018. The progressive model’s message is that by learning and practicing nutrition- and exercise-based lifestyle changes in conjunction with medication management when appropriate, participants can not only lower their diabetes risk, but feel better too.
“We focus on working gradually toward a 5 percent body weight loss and 150 minutes per week of exercise, which are national guidelines,” Redmond says. “In addition, we discuss how we can help our patients achieve these goals– through conscious food and cooking choices and by becoming more active. Both are doable with support from their friends in the program, their caregivers, and the prevention program coaches.”
MountainWise, a non-profit that partners with eight western North Carolina counties to increase awareness about how to improve community health, provided funding that allowed Redmond to get four of her staff trained as certified Diabetes Prevention Program health coaches, and that allowed us to purchase supporting software developed by Wake Forest University.
Redmond explains that consistency is key, so the year-long program’s group classes happen weekly during the first three months, taper down to every two weeks after that, and eventually go to only once a month near the end. The focus is more on health coaching than formal education. The program is participant-driven, and coaches and patients form effective bonds. “We’ve also built in an exercise component that allows participants to use the hospital’s cardiac rehab gym facility at a discounted rate,” Redmond says.
Importantly, participants, are seeing positive results. Data on classes that began in January and July of this year reflect a steady 1.9% and 1.4% weight loss respectively by participants. Redmond cites the group participation and health coach support pieces as keys to success. “If you’re with people who are dealing with the same issues as you, and you receive sympathetic guidance, it’s a great motivational balance” she added.
In addition to our diabetes prevention program, we also offer a year-long TRH Diabetes Education Program, for those already living with diabetes. The key to successful diabetes prevention and management is collaboration – among caregivers, coaches, and patients. During this American Diabetes Month, please share this important information with your family, friends and neighbors. Together, we can lower our region’s diabetes rate so we will no longer be a notch in America’s “diabetes belt.”
Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is the President and CNO of Transylvania Regional Hospital. Her diverse professional experience includes service as a bedside nurse and over a decade as a leader at healthcare institutions in Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. Ms. Pilon earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Ohio’s University of Akron and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis in Illinois; she is also a Board-Certified Nursing Executive.