November is American Diabetes Month – Here Are 3 Things CHWs Can Do To Help Prevent The Disease

Nearly every day, a new study shows that healthy habits are the ticket to living longer and feeling better while you do live by avoiding diseases like diabetes. Eating well, exercising often, stopping smoking, keeping to a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol pays off.

Diabetes among your community members and patients is probably one of your biggest concerns. The burden of diabetes is staggering, and it continues to climb. The total costs of diagnosed diabetes have risen to $327 billion, when the cost was last examined, according to research from the American Diabetes Association.

The largest components of medical expenditures are:

  • hospital inpatient care (30% of the total medical cost),
  • prescription medications to treat complications of diabetes (30%),
  • anti-diabetic agents and diabetes supplies (15%), and
  • physician office visits (13%).

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to fight off infections, leading to skin conditions and other complications. Diabetes also makes circulation a challenge and takes a toll on the cardiovascular system. By now it’s also known that preexisting conditions like diabetes and hypertension increase the risk of getting infected with COVID and its severity.

With over 34 million Americans dealing with diabetes and up to 1 in 3 adults facing prediabetes, it’s clear that resources to prevent and treat this chronic disease are much needed. Community health initiatives can educate and help individuals keep diabetes at bay by promoting healthy lifestyle changes like regular exercise, a balanced diet with lots of produce, and limiting substance use, including tobacco and alcohol.

Providing this kind of diabetes education and motivating people to make lifestyle changes is exactly where community health workers (CHWs) excel. Health initiatives targeted at reducing incidence of diabetes are creating more CHW jobs, because it’s proven that CHWs help patients manage diabetes. It should be part of any CHW core competencies program.




Your program can be key in preventing diabetes and improving health outcomes for patients by training your team in outreach, peer education, and chronic disease management. The first step in training your team for diabetes interventions is identifying which skills you need to develop. From there, you can set up a training plan to best position CHWs for helping people to make changes.

The following three areas are a must for any diabetes education program:

[Add Diabetes and Prediabetes to any subscription—read more]

1. Tobacco cessation

CHWs need skills in tobacco cessation—including Motivational Interviewing—to address many health problems caused by smoking and using tobacco. Tobacco cessation skills are also critical for diabetes prevention and control programs.

Smokers are more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers, and that risk goes up along with the number of cigarettes smoked. Smoking damages cells in the body by increasing inflammation and mixing chemicals in cigarettes with oxygen, called oxidative stress. Smoking can also lead to more belly fat, itself linked with diabetes.

Smokers who already have type 2 diabetes have more serious health problems. Nicotine can make insulin less effective. They’re also more likely to have heart and kidney disease, poor circulation in the legs and feet, and blindness.

2. Physical activity

Americans sit too much and exercise too little, so CHWs who know how to get people up and moving are helping prevent a host of health problems in addition to diabetes. According to studies, moving around shows immediate health benefits, including reducing anxiety, improving blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

Read more: How I Started a Community Health Initiative and How It Can Make Your Clients Healthier

Physical activity fights diabetes on several fronts. It makes a body more sensitive to insulin and helps people lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. It also helps control blood sugar levels.

CHWs who are trained in physical activity and active living are in a better position to make recommendations to people, no matter what their barriers are (physical, geographical, financial, etc.). They can also help patients and clients set and stick to goals and maintain an activity program that works.

3. Healthy eating

Finding a healthy eating strategy is probably at the top of a diabetes prevention and control program, and it may be one of the toughest strategies for people to follow. Following a diabetes diet means eating a plant-heavy diet that’s rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. People should add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to their plates. That helps with weight loss and also controlling blood glucose.

Many people with diabetes work with a dietitian to develop a healthy eating plan, but CHWs can work with them to make food choices that work for each person’s preference, location and culture.

Training in healthy eating can also be matched with training in physical activity to offer more comprehensive support to clients.

Read more: Your Agency Needs Training for Food Insecurity

Suggested training curriculum

A comprehensive CHWtraining curriculum for a team of CHWs looking to control diabetes should start here:

  • Diabetes and Prediabetes
  • Supporting Tobacco Cessation
  • Promoting Healthy Lifestyles
  • Motivational Interviewing: Peer Support for Behavior Change

A useful expansion pack of diabetes education resources includes options for supporting clients on their journey:

  • Providing Social Support
  • Health Literacy: A Start
  • Substance Use

During National Diabetes Month, you can add Diabetes and Prediabetes to any subscription on CHWTraining. If you’re interested in building a diabetes education program for your team with these or other courses, click the button below to learn how to add certified training to your program. Our team will be in touch ASAP to schedule a time to chat.

Originally published November 15, 2019, updated November 20, 2020.

Heart Health Training Checklist: Does Your Team Have These Skills? [Checklist]

Heart disease is responsible for the most deaths of men, women, and people in most racial and ethnic groups around the US. People with heart conditions, such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease, have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

[Video: Supporting Mental Wellness in CHW Teams]

Having a healthy heart is more important now than ever before. Luckily, people can protect themselves from heart disease and stroke in many ways. As a result, they can both reduce their risk and manage heart disease by making lifestyle changes like eating healthfully and staying physically active.

That’s why health promoters–such as community health workers, promotores (CHW/Ps), or similar job titles, are so important to healthcare agencies. They can use patient education and community outreach to improve health outcomes and avoid emergency rooms (ERs).

Heart Disease and Stroke Training for Community Health Teams

Training your team in heart health makes sense. CHW/Ps with the right skills can guide patients and clients toward preventing heart disease and stroke.

This means making sure your employees or volunteers are equipped to work directly with clients and patients to provide heart health education, find motivation for change, connect people with local resources and providers, and help to set, accomplish and maintain goals.

Some of these skills are covered in standard CHW core competencies training, but a more focused approach on cardiovascular health pays off.

 

Organizing Onboarding Programs

Every organization that serious about improving cardiovascular health in the community needs a training checklist to guide them when hiring new people. Making sure each hire has essential heart health training sets the tone their experience at your agency. Be organized about training at the beginning of the hiring process, or when educating an existing team to have community health skills. That way, your team perform better and make a bigger impact at work.

Some agencies train staff members by on-the-job training only. That process is certainly useful and should be part of a comprehensive training program. However, one-dimensional training leaves out a comprehensive foundation of knowledge.

Teams who learn the basics first can make better decisions and take smarter actions when they’re working with clients. They also stand to be better understood by a multidisciplinary team as part of a formal education plan.

Heart Health Training Checklist

 

Using a checklist makes the evaluation process simpler. So, we’ve created a heart health training checklist for you to download for free.

You can use this checklist to:

  1. Assess the skills of potential and new staff
  2. Evaluate the training needs of existing staff
  3. Help staff understand what they need to know in order to do their job
  4. Decide what training capacity you have internally vs. what you need to acquire from a vendor

When you use the checklist, add when the training was completed and also the date when training needs to be renewed—usually every year. Also include where the team member was trained and also an official sign-off, possibly by a director or HR manager. HR departments sometimes require a certificate of completion, so make sure your employee hands that over when they’re done.

Adapting Training to Various Teams

This checklist works for most teams that work in the role of a CHW. Here are some ideas for customizing it for different community-health oriented teams.

For Community Health Representative (CHR) Teams

  • Health disparities and social determinants of health
  • Basic anatomy/physiology
  • Community disease profiles
  • Emergency patient care

For Peer Support Specialists or Recovery Coaches

Add training in…

  • Behavioral health
  • Comorbidities and co-occurring conditions
  • Administering Naloxone

For Care Coordination Teams

Add training in…

  • Conducting community needs assessments
  • Documentation skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Service navigation
  • Telehealth

For Family Navigators

Add training in…

  • Conducting community needs assessments
  • Service navigation
  • Health disparities and social determinants of health

10 skills CHWs can learn right now—without leaving the couch