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Q&A – Dr. Angela Ford: Care Coordination & the Importance of Healthy Living for Diabetes Patients

AUGUST 09, 2016

Dr-Ford-Headshot2As a part of our ongoing work with a broad array of partners to raise awareness for National Diabetes Awareness Month, we sat down with Dr. Angela Ford to talk about the importance of high quality coordinated care for individuals living with diabetes and the Black Women’s Health Imperative program Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life.

Dr. Ford, PhD, MSW, is the Health Programs Manager for MACC Task Force member Black Women’s Health Imperative and provides leadership for Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life. She is also a Master Trainer for the Imperative’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

MACC Task Force: What is the Black Women’s Health Imperative?

Dr. Angela Ford: The Black Women’s Health Imperative is a national, non-profit organization that works to improve the health and wellness of Black women across the country. We identify the most pressing health issues and invest in the best strategies, partners and organizations to reduce chronic mortality, advocate for reproductive justice and ensure women have access to health insurance and quality care. We also try to promote evidence based lifestyle models, such as the Diabetes Prevention Program, to improve health and address health inequities.

MACC: Why did the Imperative choose diabetes as one of its focus areas?

Dr. Ford: If you look at the statistics, the populations that are hit the hardest and carry the greatest burden of the disease are people of color. Then, when you narrow that down they tend to be women. For black women, the risk of developing diabetes is great. It affects 1 in 4 women ages 55 years and older and is listed as the fourth leading cause of death for all ages. So our Diabetes Prevention Program – Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life. – places special emphasis on recruiting and enrolling Black women and Latinas so we can increase their awareness about the disease and how to prevent it.

MACC: Can you please tell us more about the Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life. program?

Dr. Ford: The Imperative’s Change Your Lifestyle. Change Your Life. intervention is part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Through this program, we are helping Black women and Latinas make lasting lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes and its related complications.

The Imperative has a strong network of community partners that bring the program to states with high rates of diabetes and prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where individuals have blood glucose higher than normal but not high enough be classified as diabetes, but are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The one-year program is based on original research that took place about ten years ago. The research found that if individuals lost a modest amount of weight and increased their physical activity, they could actually delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. The research also showed that the best predictor of losing weight was for the participants to track their food intake. So through strategies such as goal setting, food and activity tracking, weight monitoring and self-management, we are able to influence positive health behaviors that impact the program participants and their families.

Coaching, peer support, and community are also cornerstones of the program. The coaches manage the group dynamic and also provide individual coaching outside of the group sessions. The programs might meet in public libraries, family homes, city halls, community and faith-based organizations and health centers.

MACC: Is the program working?

Dr. Ford: We now have about two year’s worth of data from a number of our partners that we are analyzing – and we have learned a couple of things. The first is that you have to have the right people in the program. It’s got to be people who are really ready to make behavior changes, because having the information alone doesn’t necessarily mean people can or will change their behavior.

Getting the right people in the program is the best way to predict success. The research suggests that participants should lose between five and seven percent of their body weight, and we’ve had a lot of folks who’ve actually been able to do that and more. In our Tennessee program, for example, average weight loss is eight percent. In our Detroit program a number of participants have lost 10 percent of their weight. So the program is working.

The second thing we have learned is that coaches are a really important part of the program. The better the coaching, the better the outcomes for the group. Most importantly, we are increasing awareness about this disease and how to prevent it within these communities.

We have a limited number of scholarships now, but ultimately we want to help individuals access this important program by working with stakeholders across the care continuum.

Through the Care for Us Project, the MACC Task Force provides chronic care resources to beneficiaries, their family members, providers and the broader policy community. This month, the task force is focused on diabetes and the importance of protecting and strengthening high quality, coordinated care for individuals with diabetes. You can follow the release of these new materials here.

Originally published November 20, 2015