Drew Memorial Health System’s recent venture into formal diabetes education has seen measurable success in combating an identified health concern for the greater Southeast Arkansas region.

In early 2016, the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP), then known as the Greater Delta Alliance for Health, identified Diabetes Education as a priority area of concern for its ten partner hospitals, all located in the southeast part of the state.

“We knew from our own community needs assessment survey that diabetes affects our area significantly,” said Kristen Smith, director of education at Drew Memorial, a participating institution in the ARHP. “Unfortunately, there is a gap in access for diabetes education south of Little Rock.”

Drew Memorial was assisted by the partnership in starting a formal diabetes self-management education and training program. Drew Memorial was awarded funding to create such a program through the Delta States Rural Development Network grant – the only hospital in the region to receive funding.

The grant provided funding for a variety resources required to get the program off the ground, including staff training, food models, patient curriculum, visual aids, and ongoing staff support. Staff in Drew Memorial’s education department also are pursuing diabetes educator certification. Kristen Smith, Drew Memorial Director of Education; Jennifer Rowland Patient Education Coordinator; and Hannah Hilton, Nurse Education Coordinator, are working toward becoming certified diabetes educators while leading the DSME/T classes.

Drew Memorial elected to earn site accreditation through the American Association of Diabetes Education (AADE) in an accelerated timeline of four months. The Drew Memorial Education Department received the Organization Acceleration Award from the Arkansas Diabetes Advisory Council in June 2017 for completing the process in record time – the process normally takes two full years.

“I’m most proud of our team for how quickly we got this program off the ground,” said Drew Memorial CEO Scott Barrilleaux. “I had no doubts they could lay the foundation of a successful program that quickly, but it is nonetheless impressive, and I’m pleased they have been recognized at the state level for that achievement.”

Referred patients attend a three-part series covering diabetes nutrition, medication management, and exercising with diabetes. It is the only AADE-accredited DSME/T program in the state south of Little Rock, and residents of Southeast Arkansas have been receptive participants.

“Our patients have been so enthusiastic,” said Smith. “They didn’t want the courses to end.” This led the hospital to offer a weekly diabetes support group just for graduates of the program. “After the classes are over, patients continue to build rapport,” Smith said. “They discuss recipes and different topics related to diabetes, but it goes further than that.”
Rowland said the support group is mostly led by the members. “They share their accomplishments and struggles, and we’re seeing them form friendships,” she said.

Classes have been offered monthly since April 2017. Widespread patient successes in the first several months (including weight loss and decreasing A1C) have given Drew Memorial the opportunity to apply for an AADE grant to start a National Diabetes Prevention Program.
“One in three Americans are now considered pre-diabetic,” said Hilton, “So establishing a preventive program is essential– especially in our part of the state where rates of diabetes are high.” This prevention program initiative was established because many people with prediabetes or who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes live in areas of the country with few or no programs.

Those diagnosed with diabetes who are interested in participating in the Diabetes Self-Management Education/Training program should speak to their primary care provider about referring them or call the Drew Memorial education department for more information at (870) 460-3509.