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The Growing Importance of Diabetes Prevention

March 2013

With nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States living with diabetes, and an additional 79 million Americans at risk, it is more important than ever for nurses and other healthcare providers to educate the public about diabetes risk factors and preventative behaviors. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes is no longer just a condition – it is an epidemic that requires greater focus and awareness on ways to prevent and manage the disease.

“The ADA is taking action against diabetes with several different initiatives to ensure that every person is properly educated on how to lower their risk for type 2 diabetes,” said Marjorie Cypress, Ph.D., RN, CNP, CDE, President-Elect of the ADA, and independent consultant and adult nurse practitioner with Albuquerque Health Partners in Albuquerque, N.M. “Nurses in particular have an opportunity to help in this fight against the disease by counseling their patients on how to live a healthier lifestyle.”

Early assessment and intervention to treat risk factors associated with diabetes can help patients prevent this potentially dangerous disease. Patient adherence is critical to the success of treatment, and ongoing education can help patients understand how to manage risk factors. Nurses can seek opportunities within professional organizations to not only expand their critical knowledge about diabetes, but to also gain access to valuable resources that can help create more public awareness.

“When given the proper educational tools, nurses can help patients facilitate appropriate lifestyle strategies to prevent diabetes including weight loss, altering diet and increasing activity level. The ADA offers a variety of professional tools to help diabetes nurses facilitate those lifestyle changes, and can be a great resource for nurses looking to positively impact their patients’ risks of developing the disease,” said Cypress.

Stop Diabetes® is a national initiative that was launched by the ADA in November 2009 to help end the devastating toll that diabetes takes on the lives of millions of individuals and families in the U.S. Those who pledge their support can contribute in a number of ways – supporters can become advocates or event volunteers, participate in walking or bike riding events, or provide financial support. This comprehensive program offers the tools supporters need to get started in the fight against diabetes.

Additionally, the ADA worked with the American College of Cardiology and the Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association to develop the “Reducing Cardiometabolic Risk: Patient Education Toolkit,” a bilingual toolkit designed to help nurses educate patients on steps towards diabetes prevention. The toolkit contains 29 different patient education topics for patients with and at risk for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Nurses can download topics in English and Spanish, and customize educational packets to meet patients’ individual needs.

According to Cypress, assessing cardiometabolic risk factors such as obesity, high blood glucose and hypertension, gives clinicians a more comprehensive understanding of a patient’s health, including the patient’s potential risk of diabetes and complications from the disease. Each of these risk factors poses a danger to good health, which is why it is important for nurses to educate patients about their individual risk factors and how to take action to lower those risks.

“Nurses have an opportunity to help diabetes patients not just at the bed side, but in a more holistic way by acting as a counselor. It’s a nurse’s job to learn about a patient’s daily lifestyle and find ways to promote physical activity and healthy eating habits. While it can certainly be a challenging job, helping patients in this way is an important part of being a nurse.”

To learn more about the ADA, visit www.diabetes.org.

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