Diabetes Education and Support: Everyone Has a Role. What’s Yours?

By Linda Siminerio, RN, PhD, CDE Chair, National Diabetes Education Program

If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes - or if you have been living with diabetes for a while - it’s important to understand that learning to manage your diabetes from the start can help you have fewer diabetes-related health problems later.

For people with diabetes, there is so much to learn about staying healthy, including what food choices to make; how to become and stay physically active; and when to take medications that have been prescribed for you.

At the same time, living with the daily demands of diabetes can be challenging, particularly as your diabetes needs can change over time. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to manage this disease alone. Support from your family, friends, caregivers and health care providers can help you manage this chronic disease every day.

That’s why I’m excited about the National Diabetes Education Program’s (NDEP) theme for National Diabetes Month this November: Diabetes Education and Support: Everyone Has a Role. What’s Yours? The NDEP is a joint program of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we developed this message because we believe people with diabetes can live healthier lives when they learn about their disease and receive the proper support to manage it. To help people understand what role each person plays, the NDEP provides tools and resources for people with diabetes, family and caregivers, health care professionals and community members.

As you consider your own support system, keep in mind that you are the most important member of your healthcare team. And remember to manage your disease so it doesn’t manage you. One helpful reminder is to think of what we call the “Diabetes ABCs.” That’s an easy way to remember that you should talk regularly with your health care team about how to manage your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and—if you smoke, how to stop—all of which can help you lower your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or other diabetes problems.

You can learn more about diabetes from a variety of professionals, including diabetes educators, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, peer leaders and community health workers. And the NDEP also offers many resources you can use to manage your diabetes, such as:

  • 4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life: This publication is helpful for people newly diagnosed with diabetes or who just want to learn more about controlling the disease.
  • Just One Step: Change begins with just one step. This tool helps people break down their goals to make modest but important lifestyle changes in small, achievable steps.
  • Make a Plan: Making changes in how to care for health is a matter of trying and learning. It’s all about choosing a goal that’s right and working toward it. This tool provides some questions to help people get started.
  • Diabetes HealthSense: Diabetes HealthSense is an online library that provides easy access to more than 160 resources from more than 80 organizations that support people with diabetes, people at risk for the disease, and those who care for them in making changes to live well or facilitating behavior change in others.

The NDEP wants to help you learn about your diabetes and receive good support so you can stay healthy. To learn more about how to manage your disease, please visit YourDiabetesInfo.org or diabetes.niddk.nih.gov.