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July 17, 2008

Patients receive tools to combat diabetes, courtesy ULM COP

Recently, ULM College of Pharmacy Office of Outcomes Research and Evaluation disease management pharmacists began an initiative to help those who suffer from diabetes fight back and lead healthier, happier lives.

The Diabetes HELP Program, or Health Education by Louisiana Pharmacists, was developed to offer assistance to Louisiana Medicaid recipients diagnosed with type II diabetes. This initial pilot project enrolled patients from the Monroe area. On May 6, the patients began a 10-week self-management educational program consisting of a two-hour session each week. The sessions, facilitated by ULM pharmacists Benji Juneau and Beverly Walker, covered various disease-related topics such as coping skills, diet/nutrition, physical activity, and medication reviews.

Walker said, "We wanted to create an empowerment approach and give patients the tools that would assist them in changing their lifestyles. We used the words ‘small steps' a lot because we knew the disease itself was overwhelming, and we wanted to encourage small daily changes that would lead to long-term positive lifestyle changes."

The pharmacists also pulled resources from several areas to give patients the highest quality education possible, according to Juneau. "It was important that we covered every topic thoroughly, so at times during the program, we brought in experts from different specialties, like a nutritionist and an exercise physiologist."

As a result of the weekly sessions, patients experienced very positive outcomes.

Robin Fike, diabetes patient and group member, attended the sessions and found new motivation to change her lifestyle. "I have learned how to eat in portions, read labels before I eat, and exercise. By the time the program was over I had lost eight pounds." Fike also had a drop in her hemoglobin A1C levels from 11.3 to 7.2 that she and her physician found very pleasing.

While in the initial planning and development process, Juneau and Walker felt it important to make the last session be really special. They put their ideas together and came up with a "healthy celebration," which took place June 7 at Chennault Park.

Patients were treated to a party filled with delicious – but alternative – food choices. Turkey burgers on wheat buns, salad with light dressing, and grilled vegetables were served to accommodate the lifestyle commitments made by each group member.

Fike enthused, "It was such a great surprise and the food was delicious! This program is the best thing that has happened to me since I found out I had diabetes."

Such a profound impact was made that many of these diabetes patients plan to assist the Office of Outcomes Research and Evaluation by becoming mentors for the next group initiative.

"We knew this project was a great thing, but seeing the impact Diabetes HELP has had on these patients is overwhelming, and we look forward to working with our next group," Walker said.

COP Director of Public and Alumni Relations Joellen Lee contributed to this release.

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