More than 30 million American adults have diabetes and another 86 million have prediabetes.
The numbers are even more staggering closer to home, according to Dr. Tiffaney Threatt, associate professor and director of Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy’s Wellness Center.
“South Carolina ranks among the top 10 highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the nation,” Threatt said. “Laurens County, designated a medically underserved area, has diabetes rates higher than the state average.”
What the PC Pharmacy School is Doing About It
So, in 2010, when the PC School of Pharmacy’s Wellness Center was created to help members of the community manage chronic disease, the first program to be developed was a diabetes education program.
“Diabetes education was the logical choice,” Threatt said.
The comprehensive diabetes education program became accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators in 2011. The program follows the national standards for diabetes self-management education and support. Those from the local community and surrounding counties referred to the Wellness Center are eligible to participate.
“The diabetes education program is patient-centered,” Threatt said.
Community members can take part in the service at no charge. A generous grant from the Laurens County Health Care Foundation and funding by the School of Pharmacy support the program.
Caring for the Community
“The Dean of the School of Pharmacy clearly recognizes the many needs of the community around us and desires to uphold Presbyterian College’s motto, ‘Dum Vivimus Servimus’ meaning While we live, we serve,” Threatt said.
Threatt pointed out that nearly one-third of the patients referred to the diabetes education program are uninsured or underinsured.
“Therefore, the decision was made several years ago to not charge for specific services, such as diabetes education,” Threatt said. “Having to pay for this service would preclude many patients in our community from being able to receive this benefit.”
In addition to the services, the Wellness Center’s classes play a significant role in the program. Every referred patient undergoes an initial assessment with a diabetes educator.
“This first meeting is a time for the educator and the patient to get to know each other, as no two people or their needs are the same,” Threatt said, “This allows the educator to help the patient set measurable goals and develop an education plan to gain the skills and knowledge necessary for managing diabetes.”
The classes are very interactive, incorporating games and hands-on learning. For example, in the nutrition class, participants can work with food models to build healthy plates and count carbohydrates.
The diabetes educator may also bring in real foods to sample that have been prepared in a healthier way.
“We set up a follow-up meeting three months after the patient has completed their education plan to ensure success or identify what barriers are getting in the way,” Threatt said.
Additionally, the program offers individual refresher classes to help participants get back on track if they have had some setbacks.
Students Help Real Patients
Pharmacy students complete one of their 4th year Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations in the Wellness Center. Students conduct assessments with diabetes patients referred to the clinic, facilitate group diabetes education sessions, conduct health screenings, answer drug information questions for health care providers and patients, and provide immunizations and other services.
The Wellness Center helped approximately 120 patients in the community last year. Many of the patients are seen multiple times as they progress through the program. A number of patients enrolled in the program have prediabetes or are overweight and at risk for developing diabetes.
“Many of the lifestyle concepts and skills we teach to patients with diabetes easily apply to prevent diabetes and losing weight,” Threatt said. “We believe that many patients have more power in their lifestyle decisions to prevent or control diabetes than most medications they could be given. Knowledge truly is power!”
According to Threatt, some patients get off or reduce their medications by learning the right things to do and losing weight.
“But that doesn’t mean that medications aren’t important,” Threatt said. “Medications can be a necessary part of managing diabetes.”
One Success Story After Another
Many success stories come out of the PCSP Wellness Center. It is not unusual for Threatt and her colleagues to see patients in the beginning who are very apprehensive about their health and their ability to manage it.
The Wellness Center’s policies and programs provide easy-to-understand information and resources and are able to help empower people to make healthy choices, according to Threatt. Patient laboratory data for diabetes management has demonstrated that the program works to help people manage their diabetes successfully.
“One patient even credited our program with saving her life, stating that she had lost hope in every aspect of her life and had every intention to end her life,” Threatt said. “She attended our program to appease her family but ended up finding a small spark of hope that changed everything.”
For Threatt, Dr. Eileen Ward, the other diabetes educator at the Wellness Center, and the rest of their team, the great reward is interacting with wonderful people in the community and helping to make a difference in their lives.
“Truly though, learning is a lifelong process,” Threatt said. “We are pharmacists who run this Wellness Center, and I believe our patients have much to teach us as well.”
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