Why so many diabetics in the metro-east?

December 2, 2013 

NAME: CATHY HARTMANN

Job: Program manager, Diabetes Complete Care @ Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville

Outlook: "Touchette Regional Hospital has worked very hard to get this program nationally accredited."

One in three people in the metro-east area has diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions. That is why Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville has expanded its diabetes treatment program and has earned national accreditation for that program. Registered nurse and program manager Cathy Hartmann, who is also a diabetic, has worked at the hospital for the past eight years and has earned national certification as a diabetes educator. She recently talked to business writer Will Buss about the program:

Q: Why has the number of diabetes cases increased over the last few years?

A: "We know that our population is aging and as we grow older we have a higher incidence of diabetes. Also, our diagnostic criteria has gotten tighter in recent years so a person that may have been a pre-diabetic years ago is now considered to be a diabetic. Although it is well-known that a diet high in carbohydrates, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity are related to diabetes, it has not been proven that it is a causal factor. What we do know is that there is a definite relationship there that has to do with insulin resistance."

Q: How prevalent has this disease become in the metro-east?

A: "Southwestern Illinois has a large number of people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic, an estimated 52,000 to 55,000 people. There is a real need for expanded treatment programs and that need is growing every year. So our expanded and nationally accredited diabetes treatment program is a service Touchette Regional is proud to provide for our service area, which we think of as being within about 25 miles of Touchette Regional."

Q: How many patients do you expect to see in a week or a month?

A: "Group classes are limited to 20 adults. We plan on two groups a week, beginning in January, so we can serve about 150 to 160 new patients a month. The group classes will be in a relaxed, fun atmosphere with cooking classes and hands-on activities. We follow up with each patient in one-on-one, personal conferences. We're starting now, and we expect the number of patients seeking treatment to grow as patients tell their friends and neighbors about the program. Because of the thousands of adults with diabetes in the area, we'll expand the program in a careful, deliberate way."

Q: What approach do you take?

A: "We are using a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach. This multi-disciplinary approach betters serves each individual patient because in planning each person's treatment we consider the whole person, then each different health care specialist and dietitian can work with that person and with the patient's physician. We base our program on seven critical steps. Healthy eating, being active, monitoring, taking medication, problem solving, healthy coping and reducing risks.

Q: Is this program for out-patients only or are patients already admitted to Touchette Regional Hospital for another reason eligible?

A: "Certainly we offer our program to patients already admitted to the hospital who are found to be diabetic or pre-diabetic, but the program is out-patient and doesn't require any hospitalization at all."

Q: How many other Touchette Regional staff members are involved?

A: "Currently we have five staff members. A patient navigator, certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian, psychologist, and physical therapist. We expect to add additional staff next year, plus we work closely with and involve each patient's own personal physician. And we'll make referrals as needed to ophthalmologists, podiatrists, dentists and others as needed to ensure that all of a patient's needs are met."

Q: How has diabetes treatment changed?

A: "There are always new medications being discovered that work in the body in different ways and it may be surprising to many people, but we are still learning many details about how the human body works. It was once thought that diabetics had to avoid sugar, candy, breads and pasta all together, but now we teach people how to fit their favorite foods into their meal planning and still achieve their blood sugar goals."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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