How would you feel if you knew that you could improve your A1C, reduce the risk of complications, decrease the risk of diabetes-related distress and depression, reduce diabetes-related hospital admissions, and spend less money on diabetes through one action?  

Would you be interested in finding this magical success formula? No, it’s not a medication or even that magical at all.

These are the research-proven benefits of diabetes self-management education (DSME).

Accepting the reality that diabetes is a self-managed disease is both empowering and burdensome. With diseases where medication alone is the primary treatment, the responsibility of your personal health choices doesn’t seem so weighty. This is not the case at all with diabetes.

one-on-one diabetes education example

What is DSME?

Because you are the most important player on your healthcare team, you need to be equipped with the right tools to handle the challenges that will come up every single day. DSME will teach you how to navigate unpredictable blood sugar, keep your risks of diabetes-related complications as low as possible, and show you to how to solve problems.

DSME is a collaborative process through which people with diabetes gain the knowledge and skills needed to change their behavior and to self-manage the disease and its related conditions. It is taught by a certified diabetes educator (CDE) who is a healthcare professional (nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) with experience working in the field of diabetes. In addition to logging a certain number of hours, a CDE has to prove their knowledge by passing a comprehensive standardized test.

Why you need diabetes education

Diabetes is not a simple disease. The way that you navigate the day-to-day twists and turns matters. The task is even more complex if you are trying to do it alone. There is so much inconsistent information to be found online that finding a reliable source is vital.

Even if you feel OK now, or think that your diabetes is simply controlled by medication, you should still learn all you can. It is very common to underestimate how serious the disease is when you are symptom-free. The danger here is that you can ignore diabetes for years, and then once complications start to develop, you can’t turn back the clock.  Don’t wait for a complication before you decide to gain the knowledge you need!

What is taught in DSME

DSME is most often delivered live in a group setting, but may also be done one-on-one in an office visit or via remote interaction with a diabetes educator. There is no one “right way” to learn about this chronic disease.  

The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) has come up with 7 core self-behaviors that are taught in DSME, ranging from healthy eating and being active to problem-solving and healthy coping.

Some classes also contain a support component where a peer group can offer empathy, encouragement, and practical advice in a non-judgmental atmosphere. Class styles and teaching formats will vary depending on where you receive the training. Some classes are held in one big block of time while others may be broken up into shorter segments over a series of weeks. Individual sessions with a dietitian are often included.

diabetes education in a group setting

How to find diabetes education

Local diabetes education programs are usually affiliated with hospitals. Physician offices may also have a list of places where diabetes education is offered. For those unable to attend a class or who do not have one geographically near them, online diabetes education can be a favorable option.

Cost of diabetes education

Insurance usually covers the cost of diabetes education classes with a referral from your physician. Although many health care plans, including Medicare, offer coverage for diabetes education, not all plans do. It is important to check with your insurance company to inquire about specific benefits.

If insurance coverage isn’t available, cash prices vary from one program to another, based on whether the class is in a group or individual setting. Fees may be approximately $100 per one-hour session, with group instruction costing slightly less.

Even if your insurance does not cover diabetes education, paying for services out-of-pocket should be strongly considered. Money spent on diabetes education is a worthwhile long-term investment into your overall health and well-being.

Preventing even one diabetes-related hospitalization will make a diabetes class that sounds expensive highly affordable in comparison!

Does diabetes education work?

Yes, it does! There is plenty of research to support the benefits of DSME. But, gaining the perspective and experience of a CDE in everyday scenarios can’t be measured in a study. Surrounding yourself with a supportive community of like-minded peers is another highly important tool in the tool chest.

Make this investment of time and energy in yourself. The rewards will be long-term and potentially life-saving!

Want some quick and easy diabetes-friendly snacks?

With this list, you won't have to wonder what to eat in between meals!

Download it to your phone or tablet and keep it handy, or print it off and keep it by your fridge.

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