Peer-to-peer diabetes help

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 27, 2008 4:07:13 PM PDT
Twenty-four million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Millions of others are at risk. Now, there is a new program that is raising awareness.

Many patients know diabetes makes their blood sugars go too high, but they're not aware that the illness can cause limb amputation, loss of vision and an early death from heart disease. Now, a local hospital is having diabetics educate other diabetics. It's the Peer Educator Program at Montefiore Medical Center.

Fifty-seven-year-old Darlene Bishop is trim and fit, and despite a family history of diabetes, she was reluctant to admit she had it, even when she had typical symptoms.

"I was craving things like peach juice and orange juice and anything sweet," she said. "I was going to the bathroom all the time."

Edmond Wynn has diabetes as well. And despite his weight, his illness is under excellent control. He's going to help Darlene, one diabetic patient to another. Edmond is a peer educator, part of the program to help patients understand diabetes.

Edmond learned to teach with the supervision of health educator Alfonsina Perez.

"If they have any questions, I train them," Perez said. "If they have any questions about a patient, I give them assignments, questions about their diseases, even about their own health."

Montefiore developed the program because they found that diabetic patients were not taking pills, exercising or eating right, and the hospital wanted a new approach.

It's working for Darlene.

"Edmond is a professional in his own right, because he is a diabetic so he can explain things to me in the way I want to hear them," she said. "We don't always listen to the doctors the way we should."

Wynn got his diabetes under control by watching what he ate and by exercise. He may still be a big man, but simply by walking 45 minutes a day, he has already dropped 150 pounds.

For more on the risks of diabetes and how to control them, click here.


STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg