When it comes to selecting diabetes education materials, the research and evaluation process can feel intimidating. Patient education is more important than ever, but determining the right evaluation criteria for educational resources can stump even the most seasoned diabetes educators.
Diabetes impacts every part of a person’s life. Living with diabetes means navigating a new normal for healthcare: healthy eating and meal planning, regular doctor visits, self-management of medication, and exercise.
By giving patients a more robust education, you’ll empower them to make better lifestyle decisions and gain greater insight into their disease. Ultimately, this will lead to a healthier, happier life for the patient and deeper trust between the patient and their health care professional.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through exactly what to look for when selecting diabetes education materials, and highlight some of the common mistakes that searchers make when selecting a resource.
Understanding The Two Types of Diabetes.
As you consider any diabetes education materials, it’s essential to remember that there are two types of diabetes, and specific educational materials to reflect this difference.
Type 1 Diabetes. Type 1 (sometimes called juvenile diabetes because it is typically diagnosed in children) is a condition where the patient's pancreas stops producing insulin. This requires the patient to inject insulin into their body via syringes or a pump. In order to test their blood glucose, patients must prick their fingers throughout the day to check their glucose level so that they know how much insulin to give themselves. There are also Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) that can be placed under the skin to give readings throughout the day for Type 1 patients.
Type 1 patients are about 5% of all people with diabetes. It is essential that patients with Type 1 coordinate the insulin in their body with their activity because both insulin and activity will result in low blood sugar. If a person’s blood sugars get too low, they can go into a state of hypoglycemia, which can lead to unconsciousness, seizures, and even death.
Type 2 Diabetes. Typically diagnosed in adults and sometimes even children, Type 2 diabetes means that the patient is still producing insulin, but their body cannot use it effectively.This can occur due to a number of issues, but often being overweight is an indicator. Patients take oral medications to regulate their body’s glucose and typically only test their blood once a day. Type 2 diabetes makes up about 95% of all people with diabetes.
For more information on these two types of diabetes, we recommend reading more at Diatribe, a website with tons of helpful information for those wanting to learn and stay up to date on diabetes.
Good Diabetes Education Materials Can Help Prevent Serious Health Complications
By prioritizing the quality of patient education materials, you’re actually prioritizing the quality of your patient’s lives. Poor educational materials disadvantage patients because they are not adequately equipped to practice effective diabetes management.
Poor diabetes management can lead to severe health complications such as kidney disease/failure.It can often lead to dialysis, eye damage (which can result in blindness), or even increase the risk for heart disease or stroke.
Quality diabetes education can help people manage their weight, improve blood sugar levels, and improve heart health. These things allow for a better quality of life for patients and the people around them.
5 Things The Best Diabetes Education Materials Have
In general, patient-facing medical information can be difficult to use and understand. This is a serious issue. One of the biggest mistakes a diabetes educator can make is selecting material that patients can’t use. Here are the biggest issues that we’ve seen in diabetes education materials:
- Materials are too hard to comprehend
- The graphics and illustrations in the materials are unclear
- There is no practical advice or tips regarding lifestyle changes for patients
- Language needs for patients are not considered
We strongly recommend picking materials that have the following five qualities:
Easy to Read.
If the materials you select are hard to understand, patients will become discouraged in learning about their self-care. It’s critical that you select materials that use accessible language. Diabetes educators will often choose material that is inexpensive (due to budget constraints) but end up with a resource that is difficult to understand, especially for younger patients with Type 1 diabetes.
Clear Graphics and Visuals.
Patients must know things such as exactly how to inject insulin, and poor visuals in your education materials could prevent their success. Be sure to prioritize clear graphics when choosing diabetes materials.
Lifestyle Tips and Practical Advice.
Managing food choices and physical activity is a large part of life with diabetes. Materials with lots of practical tips on what to eat, how to exercise, and general lifestyle advice will go a long way in empowering patients how to practice better self-care.
Certified and Updated Content.
Diabetes care changes often. As new medications are developed and methods of self-care are updated, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) will update their standards of care. Be sure to buy the most current version of your materials as they are often updated.
Multiple Language Options.
Diabetes can happen to anyone. As a result, language options are important so that educators can teach people who speak different languages. Rates of diagnosed diabetes are higher among American Indians/Alaska Natives (15.1 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (12.7 percent), and Hispanics (12.1 percent), compared to Asians (8.0 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (7.4 percent).
HERC offers up to date diabetes education materials in Spanish. Click here or the image below to request a free sample kit.
How To Get The Most Out Of The Evaluation Process
Once you have decided that you’re interested in a particular diabetes educational resource, it’s critical that you test the material before making a purchase. Never buy a medical education resource sight unseen. Here are three steps you can follow to get the most of your resource evaluation process:
1. Request a sample kit.
Always ask for a sample of the diabetes materials that you’re considering. This will allow you to make sure that the information is up to date, and get a better look at how the materials meet the standards of the 5 elements we’ve listed above.
2. Take the sample to your colleagues.
Involving other members of your group or organization in the evaluation process will help you get a better feel for the viability of the educational materials. They may catch issues or provide insight that allows you to make the best decision for your patients.
3. Consider pricing and availability.
The temptation educators face is choosing the cheaper materials in response to the prevalence of diabetes patients in the United States (according to the CDC as of 2015, 30.3 million Americans – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes. Another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that if not treated often leads to Type 2 diabetes within five years.) It’s important to seriously consider the implications and problems that may arise from cheaper diabetes education materials. Additionally, we strongly advise that you determine the availability of these materials as the number of diabetic patients increases.
Assess the vendor’s ability to partner with your organization.
Partnership ensures that your money is well spent and your materials meet the needs of your patients and coworkers. Make sure that the vendor you’re considering is responsive, attentive, and willing to answer your questions.
When patients have current diabetes information that is easy to understand, the result is better self-care, and a healthier, happier life.
Are you currently exploring new diabetes education materials? Click here to request a sample from HERC today.