Living with diabetes can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to run your life. Neponset Health Center in Quincy recently developed the “Biggest Winner” competition, a fun way to help people learn how to improve their diabetes management.  

Maureen McGinnis and Maureen Bennett, patients who participated in the competition and are living with diabetes, spoke with Neighborhood Health Plan (NHP) about the skills they learned to better manage their diabetes. They hope that others can learn from their experience.

“Eating right, taking your medications, getting exercise are all important,” Ms. McGinnis said. “This program gave us resources to help tackle diabetes.”

Participants found that meeting as a group helped them learn from others about how they manage diabetes.

It’s good to talk with other people who have diabetes,” said Ms. Bennett. “To find out that other people have the same problems you have, and to be able to share how they deal with these issues is important.”  

“When you’re talking about diabetes, thinking about diabetes and reading about diabetes each meeting, it’s at the front of your mind,” said Ms. McGinnis.

Dr. Michael Conley, PharmD, from the Neponset Health Center, helps lead the “Biggest Winner” competition. Dr. Conley talked to NHP about how to join the program and what you can learn.

How does the “Biggest Winner” Competition work?

We created the competition to provide group education for patients who want to make lifestyle changes and better understand their diabetes. Over a three-month period, we meet every two weeks with a group of 5-10 patients. Every week, we raffle off prizes or provide people with tools to help manage their diabetes (measuring cups, pillboxes, calorie counting books, etc.). At the end of the program, we enter the people who have followed the program guidelines in a raffle to win a Wii and a Wii Fit.

What are helpful tips for how best to manage diabetes?

The best ways to manage your diabetes are:

• Taking your medication;

• Eating healthy; and

• Getting exercise.

Why is being active, eating healthy and taking medication so important to managing diabetes?

They’re so important because they all help to reduce the risk of long-term complications that result from having your blood sugar level too high for too long. Also, reducing long-term complications significantly lowers your health care costs.

 Do you have any patient success stories?

The first time we ran this program, I had a patient who I had been seeing for a few years. She didn’t always take care of her health, but she joined the competition, came to every meeting, and was very engaged. At the end, we checked her labs, and her blood sugar improved to levels that I’d never seen before. By participating in the group, she had goals to work toward, which really helped motivate her to take better control of her health.

 What are the key lessons you hope your patients take away from this program?

The biggest lesson I hope they learn is self-management. Diabetes is a life-long disease and the most important thing we can do is to make sure they have the best tools to handle the disease.

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