It is so exciting to be a part of a team with so many energetic volunteers—professionals, staff and everyday people—who are working together for a common cause: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.
These are the best of times because, for the first time in our history, we have even greater opportunities to actually do more for the underserved high-risk populations with regard to health care. It’s also the worst of times because the number of people with diabetes in the United States is nearly 26 million and there are also 79 million people who have prediabetes—and many of them have no idea that they have a serious health problem.
As a Nurse Educator and Public Health Nurse volunteering in the Los Angeles community for more than 10 years, I have been working with the homeless and the working poor who are Latino, Chinese and African American. I work with a small group of volunteers (several of which are student nurses), who are a reflection of the population we are serving. We have been able to actively demonstrate the importance of the American Diabetes Association’s Stop Diabetes® movement through the language of comfort by:
- Doing cooking demonstrations utilizing foods that families use on a regular basis and explaining how to rinse canned foods when fresh ones are not readily accessible.
- Teaching families and the homeless how to read food labels.
- Demonstrating the importance of portion control, using the palm of the hand as a guide.
- Sharing the importance of movement, such as walking, dancing, cleaning house and pulling weeds.
- Washing the homeless’ feet and providing referrals for follow-up for individuals displaying cellulitis, vascular challenges and diabetes.
- Teaching the importance of taking medication as prescribed. (Those with diabetes often show us bottles of medications, share their frustration, stop taking their medications as prescribed and don’t maintain clinic follow-up appointments.)
- Explaining to individuals and family members the importance of having medications and other health-related items available in the event of an earthquake or other disaster.
While the volunteers change, I have come to know many of the individuals and families who look forward to our interactions because they know they’re in a caring environment that affords them the ability to openly share their health care needs.
As the Association’s 2013 President, Health Care & Education, I enthusiastically look forward to continuing the work of those who preceded me in on this journey to Stop Diabetes! It is an honor for me to continue creating my army of serious volunteers from elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges and senior citizens who want to make a difference in the lives of all people.
Thank you for empowering others to want to help the Association decrease the numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes—currently every 17 seconds of every day—through education.
We are on our way to a cure as we continue to market diabetes education in ways that are comprehensive and meaningful. We must model behavior that encourages and embraces the desire to change!
Lurelean B. Gaines
President, Health Care & Education
American Diabetes Association