Problem-solving lessons help individuals with type 2 diabetes improve self-care

Disease management programs that teach participants general problem-solving skills in addition to providing disease-specific information may be able to greatly improve the ability of individuals with type 2 diabetes to control and in some cases resolve their condition, according to a new study out of Johns Hopkins University.

The researchers said that most disease management programs simply focus on specific tasks that patients need to perform in order to care for their condition. However, this may leave them unprepared to handle many of the unforeseen occurrences that often arise during the course of living with type 2 diabetes.

For the study, which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the researchers provided half of the 56 participants with an intensive nine-session course that provided disease-specific information, but also taught them how to handle financial, social, resource-related and interpersonal situations that often stand between a person and proper disease management. The remaining participants were enrolled in a two-session course that only offered disease-specific information.

Three months after the courses, the researchers found that participants in the intensive group showed significant improvements in HbA1C levels, which is a measure of long-term blood sugar control. Many stopped needing insulin injections and were able to improve cholesterol and blood pressure scores. No such benefits were seen in the second group.

"We know that people need information to manage their disease, but having knowledge of the facts is not enough for behavioral change," says Felicia Hill-Briggs, who led the study. "With this novel approach, we have found a way to give people the skills to solve problems in all areas of their lives so that they can take diabetes off the back burner and start caring for their health."
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