In America today, 80 percent of people with diabetes will die of heart disease and vascular complications related to their diabetes. This sobering statistic is softened by the benefit that treatment and education can bring to an individual encumbered with diabetes. This burden of disease and its complications falls on the community as well as the professional network that cares for individuals with diabetes.
The number of practicing endocrinologists can only reach 3 percent of people with diabetes in the United States. In St. Louis, this means that of the nearly 150,000 people with diabetes, only about 4,500 have an endocrinologist managing their care. The need to assist the diabetic community in support of behavior change and education is clearly present.
In response, Garry Tobin, MD, director of the Washington University Diabetes Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, collaborated with the St. Louis Diabetes Coalition to establish the Diabetes Network of St. Louis. Their goal: to harness the grass-roots energy of patients with diabetes and assist them in fostering and developing behavior change in a community setting.
Lay individuals with diabetes were recruited and trained to lead group education and support others. Funded by the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation and the Missouri Foundation for Health, the network has reached 474 people in 36 locations throughout the city since its launch in 2007.
“The Diabetes Network is really about building relationships in the community,” says Dr. Tobin.