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Doubts Over Long Term Effectiveness of Group Education for Diabetes Patients

A new study states that there are no long term benefits from type 2 diabetes group education programs….

Type 2 diabetes requires a person to be extremely vigilant in caring for themselves when it comes to medication, treatment and caring for their symptoms. The UK’s Diabetes National Service Framework and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) both support and recommend education programs to diabetics, starting at the time they are diagnosed.

Former studies have shown that the Diabetes Education and Self Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed, was successful in giving patients a positive outlook and that patients’ feelings about their disease were improved. Their health also benefitted over a year, however, the study did not determine the long term effects of the program.

For this study, researchers recruited 731 of the 824 volunteers who were evaluated in the first study to determine the long term impact, over 3 years, of diabetes education programs.

The patients who were in the intervention group took 6 hour group programs, which were taught by 2 well trained healthcare professionals. The control group did not attend the structured classes, and followed routine care with their primary doctors.

The researchers collected data on the patients containing their body weight, cholesterol levels, and HbA1c (blood sugar) levels. They also looked at the patients’ history of depression, quality of life, lifestyle habits, beliefs about illness, what medications they were taking and how being diagnosed with diabetes made them feel.

Lifestyle and biomedical results at 3 years were the same with the intervention group and the control group, but the patients’ beliefs about illness seemed to have improved.

Another published study, focused on the program named “Talking Diabetes,” which focuses on healthcare professionals’ techniques of helping children deal with being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This particular study found that at 12 months, the program did not impact quality of life or blood glucose levels.

An accompanying editorial states that outcome of the trial is discouraging and that we should “focus again on the setting of appropriate targets by professionals who care for patients with diabetes and the patients themselves.”

BMJ, April 2012, doi:10.1136/bmj.e2333