Public Libraries Play Host to Community Health Education Classes

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Quality Insights, the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) serving Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Louisiana, is partnering with several New Jersey libraries and community groups to provide free diabetes and chronic disease management education. It is offered as part of Everyone With Diabetes Counts (EDC), a national program led by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

"Libraries know their population best. They have an ongoing relationship with their respective communities and offer insight on what populations want."

Between April and June 2015, libraries in Metuchen, Monmouth Junction, Plainfield and Parlin are offering free, six-week workshops for people with diabetes and other chronic illnesses, as well as for their family members and caregivers. The workshops cover a variety of topics – including diet and exercise, medication management, the importance of exams, disease risks and pain management – and follow a specialized curriculum from the Stanford School of Medicine, designed to help individuals manage and take control of their own health.

According to Janet Knoth, RN, Diabetes Self-management Program Master Trainer at Quality Insights, the aim is to build an ongoing, robust diabetes education resource for communities, based on relationships established from these workshops.

Knoth said that libraries advocate diabetes self-management education (DSME) by cultivating a following among participants in past activities. She added that local communities already look to their libraries as educational resources beyond books; branches regularly host guest speakers and other healthy-living learning opportunities that community members have come to expect.

Libraries know their population best,” said Knoth. They have an ongoing relationship with their respective communities and offer insight on what populations want.”

Quality Insights has also teamed with several senior centers, as well as the Salvation Army and various faith-based organizations. Additionally, the QIN-QIO is planning future work with Boscov’s, a local department store, to promote the workshops and integrate awareness of EDC into the business’s community engagement initiatives.

The goal is to make beneficiaries aware of these Medicare-funded resources,” said Natalie Tappe, RN, MSN, EDC Network Task Lead at Quality Insights. While most diabetes management programs are fee-based, DSME workshops are free to attend. It’s a great benefit for people with limited income.”

Tappe and Knoth said that a community approach is effective because it engages individuals where they feel most comfortable. 

There are no white coats,” Knoth said. Attendees learn from others who are going through the same thing. It’s a user-friendly environment where it is safe to ask questions.”

QIN-QIO instructors teach the initial workshops, aiming for the community to take the lead from there. Tappe said attendees often volunteer to teach future courses. This train-the-trainer” program helps sustain learning communities from within by teaching local peer educators to lead EDC-related workshops.

The small-group workshops help generate support and cohesion within the classroom and beyond. Specifically, participants with Type 1 diabetes often serve as positive role models to individuals with Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, since they have life-long experience managing the disease.

And, because storytelling is a key workshop component, participants bond through sharing. Knoth said that some participants have made it routine to go for a walk together after the workshop. 

That’s the self-management piece we’re aiming for,” said Knoth.

For the future, Quality Insights envisions more self-sustaining health education communities and an increase in beneficiaries who have applied what they have learned to achieve improved outcomes. 

The QIN-QIO will track the progress of a percentage of participating beneficiaries from five states. They will use that data for a longitudinal study to examine the efficacy of the EDC program. However, Tappe said that if even one person benefits from the program, the workshops will be a success in her eyes.

Whether it’s amputation or blindness, if we can prevent just one complication, we’ve done our job,” Tappe said. How rewarding is that?”