For African-American Women, Diabetes Education May Need New FocusPosted by Medicare Made Clear
Uncontrolled diabetes can cost people their eye sight, toes, and feet, or even their lives. African-American women run a high risk of these serious complications. For this group, diabetes education may need to focus on more than awareness.
The search is on for ways to reverse the dire statistics surrounding diabetes and African-American women.
African-American women with diabetes experience high rates of kidney failure, amputation, and eye problems. They are more likely to die from the disease than non-Hispanic white women with diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
No Lack of Awareness
Jennifer Draklellis, an innovation consultant for UnitedHealth Group Alliances, sees the numbers as a call to action. She is leading a project for UnitedHealthcare and AARP to find ways to reach African-American women about the seriousness of diabetes prevention.
“When we started trying to address this problem we thought this is really about lack of awareness, right? There are 73 million undiagnosed prediabetics,” she says.
“But what we found in talking to African-American women is that they really are acutely aware of diabetes because they are surrounded by it. So it really isn’t about trying to make them aware of it. It’s trying to help them understand that they can take control over it.”
Draklellis spent 18 months meeting African-American women with diabetes and one commonly held view struck her.
Focus on Taking Control
“There’s this whole notion that they’re predisposed to getting diabetes so there’s nothing they can really do about it,” says Draklellis. “We’ve been really trying to focus on how we can find ways to help people understand that they do have control over it. By making lifestyle changes they can reduce their risk.”
You can read about reducing diabetes risk even when you have a family history in our article, Diabetes is a Family Affair.
Draklellis says often the advice for controlling diabetes is general, like eating better and exercising. The goal of her project is to find interactive tools that turn those suggestions into actions people feel they can take.
For now, she says success might be about finding a starting point – a way to initiate small changes.
Start with Small Changes
The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) offers advice on where to begin. For example, scheduling a ten minute walk several times a day to introduce more activity. Another starting point is learning about portion size for eating better.
The NDEP says managing diabetes or fending it off is not easy, but it is worth it. Controlling weight and blood sugar levels can help drive down the risk of life-threatening complications and may improve the way people feel.
You can search NDEP’s web site for reading materials and tool kits geared to individuals by age, ethnicity, and location.
Additional personalized help can be found through the American Association of Diabetes Educators. It connects patients to doctors, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and others who can help map out a plan for managing diabetes.
Medicare May Cover Diabetes Education
Medicare Part B may cover up to 10 hours of initial outpatient diabetes education, also called diabetes self-management training. Training includes tips for eating healthy, being active, monitoring blood sugar, taking medication, and reducing risks.
If you qualify, Medicare may also cover up to 2 hours of follow-up training each year.
You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for diabetes self-management training, and the Part B deductible applies.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
6 Diabetes Myths Debunked: Get the facts about diabetes.
Medicare.gov: Visit the official U.S. government site for Medicare.