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St. Luke's is Changing Diabetes Care Through Better Management

A man with diabetes checks his blood glucose level. Across Idaho, one in 12 Idahoans have been diagnosed with diabetes.
By Ken Dey, News and Community
March 26, 2013

March 26 is National Diabetes Alert Day


By Lisa Gonser St. Luke's Humphreys Diabetes

One in 12 adults in Idaho has been diagnosed with diabetes. This translates into 90,000 of our family members, friends and neighbors. Even more startling is that fact that another 60,000 Idahoans have pre-diabetes, putting them at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless steps are taken to stop diabetes.  St. Luke’s Health System is moving toward meeting this challenge.

Across St. Luke’s, the patient care model is shifting to address managing and preventing chronic disease, specifically diabetes.  Diabetes is a self-managed disease, and patients require a great deal of education and follow-up in order to care for themselves appropriately.

“We have providers and care teams across the System who not only see the need to improve how we care for the patients, they are beginning to experiment with the new models to deliver care that is patient-centered and team-based,” said Dr. Jon Schott, co-chair of the Diabetes Education and Management Council at St. Luke’s.

Part of that new delivery system includes embedding certified diabetes educators from St. Luke’s Humphreys Diabetes Center into the physician clinics.  The diabetes education is offered as part of the physician visit, so there is no additional cost to the patient, and since the diabetes educator is on site, wait time is eliminated.  The end result is more patients are getting the education they need.

“The patients are happy we are here.  It’s more convenient for them and less expensive,” said Carmen Dvorak, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator who spends some of her days at the Idaho Family Physician Clinic.  “And the physicians are already seeing the positive impact on their patients.  I had one doctor tell me about a patient he has worked with for over 10 years, and his blood sugars kept going up, up and up. I had a few visits with the patient, and the doctor told me, ‘I don’t know what you do, but his blood sugars are coming down!’ The patient is getting healthier and the doctor is thrilled.  This care model is working!”

Diabetes Education Makes a Difference

Diabetes education and awareness is a cornerstone of good health.  Just ask Sharlene Stahl.  “I am such a proponent of Humphreys Diabetes Center” she said. “They saved my life.”

One year ago, Stahl was at her 70th birthday party, celebrating this milestone with family and friends when she became very ill.  She was so sick and weak that her daughter took her to the doctor’s office in a wheelchair.  A simple blood test explained everything – she had type 2 diabetes.  Normal blood sugars range from 80-140. Stahl was well over 400.  “My doctor told me I had syrup in my veins,” she said.

Her physician referred her to St. Luke’s Humphreys Diabetes Center.  Her first visit was with Julie Walker, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.  Walker explained to Stahl how serious diabetes is, and how she could begin to take steps to manage it.  “Julie worked with me on portion control,” Stahl said.  “As an obese person, more was always better to me.”  But Stahl got the message. She started using measuring cups and spoons to learn about serving sizes. She used smaller plates. She started eating more fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods.  “I just started dropping the weight. I didn’t even have to try,” Stahl proudly proclaims.

Stahl went on to take the full set of diabetes management classes.  “They made all the difference in the world,” she says. To date, she has lost 100 pounds, is off all of her diabetes medication and her hemoglobin A1c (a test that indicates a person’s 3-month blood sugar average) dropped from a whopping 13 percent down to a normal 5 percent.  “I feel better than I have in my entire life.”

Screening for Diabetes in McCall

In an effort to identify those who are at high-risk for developing type 2 diabetes, St. Luke’s McCall staff visited five area churches to perform blood glucose testing and blood pressure checks. More than 100 members of the community participated in these visits and many were quite enthusiastic to receive health education, and to make contact with staff. The opportunity to converse with the parishioners and to observe the environment of the churches also helped inspire healthy change.

Brian Reese, pastor of the Donnelly Bible Church, requested a fellowship table "makeover," when he noticed the table of pot-luck foods, made by parishioners for consumption during the hour, “looked like the path to Diabetes." He consulted with the St. Luke's McCall staff, and the following week, requested that the parishioners contribute healthier fare, such as fruit and vegetable trays, and modified sweet treats.

Prior to going to the faith-based venues, fewer than 30 people participated in the free diabetes screening programs held at St. Luke's McCall.  Changing the delivery model by taking the program into the community increased participation, helped develop a positive relationship with church members, and gave staff the opportunity to better see into the lives of community members.  All of the churches invited the St. Luke’s McCall staff back to provide additional screenings and educational programs.

To find out more about diabetes services available at St. Luke's visit

Diabetes by the Numbers. 

Diabetes is a serious disease that strikes nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States, and a quarter of them—7 million—do not even know they have it. An additional 79 million, or one in three American adults, have prediabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless we take the steps to stop diabetes.

Are You at Risk? 

Everyone should be aware of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes.  People who are overweight, under active (living a sedentary lifestyle) and over the age of 45 should consider themselves at risk for the disease.  African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and people who have a family history of the disease also are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, diagnosis often comes 7 to 10 years after the onset of the disease, after disabling and even deadly complications have had time to develop.  Therefore, early diagnosis is critical to successful treatment and delaying or preventing some of its complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and death.

The American Diabetes Association has made a strong commitment to primary prevention of type 2 diabetes by increasing awareness of prediabetes and actively engaging individuals in preventative behaviors like weight loss, physical activity and healthful eating.  Alert Day is a singular moment in time in which we can raise awareness and prompt action among the general public – particularly those at risk.

Take Charge of Your Health

 Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed by losing just 7% of body weight (such as 15 pounds if you weigh 200) through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating.  By understanding your risk, you can take the necessary steps to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

You can be part of the movement to Stop Diabetes® and get your free Diabetes Risk Test (English or Spanish) by visiting or by calling 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Although Alert Day is a one-day event, the Diabetes Risk Test is available year-round.


About The Author

Ken Dey served as Public Relations Coordinator at St. Luke's from 2008-2014.