Contributor: Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES
This past weekend, we celebrated our son’s marriage and welcomed a beautiful new daughter into our family. So many friends and family surrounded us, and as I sat down to write this article, I started thinking about all the support we received over the weekend from our community. It reminded me that community is important in all aspects of our lives, including diabetes.
Life with diabetes can sometimes feel all-consuming because it can feel like everything revolves around how our blood glucose and, ultimately, our health will be affected. This is why we need people in our lives who understand, who we can bounce ideas off, who will hold us accountable, and who will be our cheerleaders when needed.
There are many places to find diabetes peer support. In your local community, your local diabetes association branch or the diabetes education program at a local hospital or medical clinic should be able to put you in contact with groups in your community. But don’t forget other support communities. Maybe you need motivation to be more consistent with your exercise routine. Sometimes, joining a gym or a specific class can be helpful. Make a pact with other members to call or text if you miss several sessions. Some continuing education programs offer “cooking for health” classes focusing on healthy diets for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Community colleges often offer seminars on health, chronic illness, nutrition, mental health, and many more. There are opportunities to find the support you need, but sometimes, it takes some research to find them.
Don't forget about online communities for diabetes peer support, such as DiabetesSisters (which you've already found!). If you worry that misinformation could be spread through these groups, the University of Texas looked at 4,600 posts made within the diabetes online community (DOC). They found only ten false statements, and others in the group corrected seven of those statements within hours. They concluded that the DOC participants did a great job self-regulating the information posted.
Another area of research has been the impact of the DOC on the diabetes management of those who participate. A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found high engagement with the DOC often showed higher time in range for blood glucose levels. A group called Peers for Progress reviewed 20 studies looking at blood glucose management and DOC usage and found that in 14 of the studies, the A1C of DOC participants went down by about one percent. Overall, they found that DOC participants had a higher quality of life and diabetes self-care.
So, don't be afraid to reach out and expand your diabetes community. You never know when you will get (or give) that support that changes your perspective and makes life with diabetes a little more manageable.
Dr. Staci-Marie Norman, PharmD, DCES, received her bachelors from Purdue University (’94) and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma (’96). In 2000 Dr. Norman added to her credentials by becoming a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is currently the Clinical Coordinator and staff pharmacist for Martin’s Pharmacy. Dr. Norman is a national faculty member for the American Pharmacist Association, teaching certificate programs in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She serves on the advisory board that oversees development and revision of these programs. Along with teaching and development responsibilities for APhA, Dr. Norman serves as a peer reviewer for research grants and publication submissions. Dr. Norman has also spoken for Abbott, Bayer, Lilly, Mannkind, and Lifescan as a diabetes specialist.