Benefits of diabetes education
Dr Olubiyi Adesina
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Diabetes education is an active process that supports people in building self-management skills, and provides for shared decision making about how best to fit diabetes treatment into daily life. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is wholly committed to the education of individuals with diabetes and actively supports programmes in the African region and elsewhere in the world that focuses on educating individuals with diabetes.
What then are the benefits inherent in educating the individual living with diabetes about the disease, and why the need? Individuals with diabetes need to be educated about the disease because diabetes is a serious and life- long medical condition, hence the more educated the person is about the disease, the more likely it is that more gusto and zest would be added to managing it and their daily living. It is well-recognized that diabetes can be a complicated disease to manage without guidance and education.
The day-to-day management of the disease actually rests with the patient, hence the power to make or mar rests with the individual. It thus becomes imperative that such individuals are fully equipped and empowered to manage themselves optimally. Good day-to-day management of diabetes is the responsibility of the person with diabetes and not that of the physician and other health workers caring for such individual. The probability is thus higher that the person with diabetes, who is well-educated about the disease and is well-motivated to make necessary changes to his/her lifestyle would have good control of blood sugar levels and thus have a lower risk of developing the devastating long-term complications of diabetes.
When the person with diabetes is educated about the disease, it facilitates informed and proper decision-making. This is manifestly evident in the area of foot care practices in the person with diabetes, where it has been clearly established that if people with diabetes are educated very well in this area it reduces the rate of foot amputation significantly in such individuals. It has also become evident that if the required behavioural changes occur after an individual has been educated about his or her diabetes, such an individual is better off with regards to future well-being. As stated by Von Kroft in 1997, “Medical care for chronic illness is rarely effective in the absence of adequate self-care’’. Medical care accompanied by self-care in a well-educated and motivated individual with a disease leads to the best of outcomes.
Life-long education of both those who care for individuals with diabetes and those with the disease is very important because of rapidly evolving research findings that positively impact on the way diabetes is managed. What has changed significantly in the last few years is the advice given on diet and medications that has impacted positively on the way the disease is managed, which a lot of individuals with diabetes and possibly those who care for them are currently not aware of.
The onus is thus on individuals with diabetes and those who care for them to be on the cutting edge, knowledge-wise, about diabetes treatment.
People with diabetes need to know what the current treatment options are, the ones they can benefit from and the ones available in their health facility. They also need to know that they have to assume responsibility for their care and what behaviours they need to change. They also need to know what their own treatment goals for blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are. This will be arrived at in conjunction with their physicians.
They also need to know about a healthy eating plan, regular use of medications, exercise plan, regular blood glucose monitoring, foot care, early recognition of problems like low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia). In addition, they also need to know what investigations ought to be carried out in them, at what frequency, what the expected results are and the implications for their health if such results are abnormal. Knowledge about diabetes is indeed power to prevent it from causing devastating long-term damage.