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Monday, July 21, 2008

More days happy than in the blues: A coach for diabetes care

Maria is a 66-eary-old Hispanic woman with diabetes. She receives her primary care at Massachusetts General Hospital's Chelsea health center. At her last visit in June of 2006, Maris had far too much glucose [sugar] in her blood; her hemoglobin HbA1c was 12.6, far more than a normal level of about 7. Her doctor referred her to a diabetes "coach," a multilingual, bicultural layman trained to identify barriers to care management and to assist patients in addressing barriers.

After several counseling sessions, the coach learned that Maria was taking one of her medications "only when I feel my blood sugar is too high," and was not taking her other medication at all because "it makes me dizzy." Maria was overweight, and ate a lot of rice, bread, pasta and other carbohydrates, and foods high in cholesterol like pizza, pork, meat, and fried food. She would not eat at all when she felt that her blood sugar was elevated. She was not exercising and reported often feeling depressed and "in the blues."

After working with the coach, Maria began taking both of her medications regularly and eating better. She cut down on carbohydrates and started eating more vegetables and fruit. She also ate more frequently in small portions. Due to her arthritis, exercise was a challenge for Maria, but she managed to walk 20 minutes on most days. In just a few months she lost 30 pounds. After 11 sessions with the coach, Maria felt very pleased with her progress, she is more confident, and has "more days happy than in the blues." When last seen by her coach in December, Maria's hemoglobin HbA1c had fallen to 7.7.

Advice for people with diabetes or another chronic health issue: ask your insurer to assign you a health coach.

Read an athlete’s diabetes story.

Thanks for our source, the 2006 Annual Report on Mass General's Community Benefit Program.

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