Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes

Patient Stories

Community Resources Make a Difference

“We have a number of community resources. One is our city Park District, which has a program where you can write a prescription for exercise that serves as a coupon for 3 to 6 months of free membership in their facilities. So after spending some time in our patient classes and  learning some exercises that they felt they could take on and understood how that fit into their diabetes treatment plan, a couple of our patients started going together to the Park District facility every morning.  I think the fact that they were able to go together and that this resource is free to the community is really exciting. This is a really nice example of the type of patient education, social support, and community resources that our project brings together. It really helps patients to become empowered and take control of their health and in the context of their community.” [Chicago]



Educating Family Builds Support System

“She was about in her fifties and she would come to class every week. It was very noticeable that she was losing weight and it wasn’t the healthy way. She was losing weight really fast because she said she would purchase food that she knew was healthy for her to eat because of her diabetes but then some of her family members, like her son and daughter, would eat up her food. She was afraid to eat something else because she didn’t know if it was good for her or not, so she just didn’t eat at all. We asked her to bring her family members to class with her and they learned about how important it is to eat healthy foods when you have diabetes, and how important it is for their mother to maintain a healthy diet. By the end of the 10-week program, they were coming to almost every class. They said that the classes not only changed their mother’s life, but also helped them to understand why it is important for her to eat healthy foods. Now it’s not just mom’s diabetic food, it’s food that everyone in their family eats because it’s healthy.” [Chicago]



Crossing Cultural Differences Creates Buy-In

“An African-American man, probably in his fifties, had a stroke. Through the process of getting that diagnosis evaluated in the hospital, he found out that he had diabetes and high blood pressure. He probably had both conditions for years, but he didn’t have a doctor. We accept patients that are referred to us from the hospital in that kind of a situation because hospitals know that if they don’t get that patient set up with some kind of outpatient care, they’re going to be back with another stroke or another medical issue soon. So it’s advantageous to have us take care of them.  When I first met this gentleman, I thought ‘this is going to be tough,’ because he needed insulin and everything was new to him and he had a stroke. And there were the physical limitations and the psychological stresses that come along with changing your life from that.  I didn’t have very high expectations for how he would do. I was also concerned that our diabetes health promoter, who is a young Latina, wasn’t going to connect well with him, even though she is providing good cultural crossover to some of our other patients. I was very wrong because he would come back and see me and say that he ‘was just in to see our diabetes health promoter.’ He would recount what they discussed and how he’s about to go see her again. More and more I got a sense that he is connecting with her and she is actually making a difference. This gentleman became a self-manager, someone who was taking his disease seriously and understanding it and making his appointments. It’s hard to say, but as a physician, there are some patients you know get it and some that just aren’t really there yet. Now he’s doing better. We still have work to do on both his diabetes and his blood pressure, but it’s just a matter of titration at this point because he buys into it.” [Baylor]



Personal Interaction Develops Trust

“We started in 2009 and she was one of my first patients and she had multiple serious health problems, including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and a diabetes AC1 of 14. She was not taking any medication and she didn’t trust the health care system or providers. She was really closed to it. So I started working with her in more detail. Usually, after we’ve seen patients three times in 3 months we see them every 3 months.  But I saw her more often. For example, we worked on a meal plan for many weeks and talked about all the diabetes care. I’m happy to say that she was here just last week and so far she’s lost 60 pounds, her A1C now is 5.3, and she’s not taking any more medicine because she’s been doing so well.  Even her self-esteem has improved, which is amazing because she had so many personal problems. Through working really closely with us and our providers, we were able to refer her to another clinic to get treatment for her liver condition. I was talking to her last week and she told me, ‘You know I couldn’t have done it without you and this program because you’ve spent so much time with me and you call me so often that I … felt that someone cared about me.’ So that was really nice and her story for me is just the best so far.” [Baylor]



Spending Time With Patient Increases Understanding

“I had a patient who was really good through the whole program. He said his blood glucose was controlled, but then all of the sudden he started not doing well, such as not eating properly, which was strange because he was a compliant patient. When I was talking to him, he seemed to me to be depressed. We kept talking and I think one of the times that he was seeing a nephrologist he got confused and he thought he was going to die from kidney failure and that he only had a few months or a year left to live. So he was like, ‘You know what, I’m not going to do anything.’ I talked with his provider and with the social worker and some other people who had contact with him at the clinic and they agreed he was confused. It turned out to be a language barrier and he didn’t understand his problem well. So when I told him, I was able to make another appointment for him to see the nephrologist, who is a volunteer because we don’t offer that specialty in this clinic. So that really changed his life because his mindset changed and he’s like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to die so let’s move on.’ And he’s doing what he was doing before and is much better. I think that’s a great story because it shows that sometimes you just don’t know… and you don’t learn those things if you don’t spend the right amount of time with patients. You need to get to know what’s really going on with them.” [Baylor]