Kansas — Say you’re heading to a family reunion — and you know when you get there, your favorite casseroles and desserts will await.
Everyday situations like this pose a quandary for many Americans.
“If you are living with diabetes, you can’t eat everything at the family gathering,” said Michelle Redmond, a community psychologist and professor of population health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. “You have to really think about your plan ahead of time. What are you going to eat? What are you not going to eat? How are you going to make sure that you’re managing the number of carbs you’re getting that day?”
Redmond is conducting a clinical trial to help people troubleshoot the situations that stand between them and getting their diabetes under control.
For that family reunion, for example, she said that could mean bringing your own food or eating smaller portions. It could also mean thinking about what else you’ll eat that day.
Redmond and her team are looking for 70 trial participants who are Black, live in the Wichita area and have uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes.
Her research focuses on health disparities — Black Americans face higher rates of this chronic health condition.
The trial includes an 18-week curriculum called eDecide, designed with Black Americans in mind. The project is led by Black researchers and it engaged Black community members in the initial research and portal testing. The project also includes images of Black people throughout the website and curriculum.
eDECIDE is an online version of an in-person program for people with diabetes developed by professor Felicia Hill-Briggs at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Research has already shown that the original version works. The goal now is to figure out whether taking the concept online does, too. If so, that could make it easier to scale up the program and reach more people.
Half of the trial participants in Wichita will work through the paper-based version of the coursework, and half will try the online version.
This means signing into a website where you log key information from your latest doctor’s appointment — such as your blood sugar levels and cholesterol.
A health coach will also check in with participants every two weeks while eDECIDE participants hone their problem-solving skills and work on monitoring their glucose and taking their medications.
People in the trial will also learn tips for asking the right questions at their doctor’s visits, and for approaching problems effectively.
“And that really helps individuals understand,” Redmond said, “‘I need to have a positive orientation to solving my problems. And get rid of the negative one, and then figure out how to overcome some obstacles.’”
Next, Redmond hopes to conduct broader trials with people of other races and ethnicities, too.
More than 34 million Americans live with diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. This includes more than a quarter of Americans over the age of 65.
When not managed properly, diabetes and its complications can lead to death. Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. before COVID-19.
“Managing diabetes is hard for everybody,” she said. “It’s not specific to African Americans.”
That’s because living with diabetes can involve so much more than just taking medication, she said.
“Do you go to your podiatrist to make sure you get your feet checked?” she said. “Are you going to your eye doctor to make sure that your eyes are okay? And are you exercising? Are you cutting out carbs?”
Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org.
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