Young boy with elderly man

When her youngest son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes almost 15 years ago, Chris Gathright was thankful for the routine diabetes care appointments and support group available. As she raised a child with diabetes, the value of education and lifestyle change became apparent. While her son is now grown, she remains passionate about lifestyle change to reduce the impact of the disease.

Chris Gathright, Diabetes Empowerment Education Program LeaderAs an employee in the activities department at Jacobson Memorial Hospital Care Center, a critical access swing bed unit with a hospital and medical clinic in Elgin, North Dakota, Gathright was introduced to the Diabetes Education Empowerment Program (DEEP).  DEEP is a diabetes self-management program that has been shown to be successful in helping participants take control of their disease and reduce the risk of complications. Facilitators are trained to lead participants through six two-hour sessions each week covering eight education modules including diet, exercise, risk factors, complications and more.

The Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) provides education for individuals to receive the tools and training necessary to successfully facilitate DEEP workshops.  It was during this training that Lisa Thorp, RN, BSN, CDE, program manager for Great Plains QIN in North Dakota, first met Gathright. “Chris is a very enthusiastic and engaged educator.  She has already held two DEEP classes since becoming a trainer in April of 2017.  She has recognized the need for diabetes education in her community and has stepped up to provide this education in addition to her regular duties.”

Gathright recalled, “When I learned the number of people living with diabetes tripled between 1990 and 2010*, I became more determined than ever to continue on this new quest I’ve started as a DEEP peer educator. I want to do all I can to help those diagnosed with diabetes stay updated and knowledgeable so they are better equipped to keep the complications minimal and live as healthy and normal as possible.”

“During the beginning of each workshop, I have seen participants who are fairly new in their journey with diabetes appear overwhelmed because they A) didn’t realize how big diabetes can be and B) are embarrassed or ashamed because they just didn’t know.  As the classes progress, topics click and make sense. The dialogue opens as the participants gain knowledge and the increase in each participant’s confidence level is paramount!  By the end of the six-week session participants are smiling and talking about how they can “do this!” And that is so exciting to me!”

The workshops focus on behavior change and serve as a compliment to existing education received by the provider or certified diabetic educator.  Participants of the DEEP program are encouraged to discuss treatment options with their health care provider and educated on the impact of lifestyle changes for reducing the risk of complications and improving overall health.

Gathright emphasized, “Participants are taught so much in such a friendly, non-judgmental environment and toward the end of the six-week session, they have found their smiles again and their voices become stronger. They’ve learned more about their disease and feel confident and competent to visit with their providers and help make decisions that will better their lives. These classes truly are empowering!”

More information on the diabetes self-management programs is available on the Great Plains QIN diabetes care web page. In addition, staff members are available to help with referral and facilitation of diabetes self-management workshops across the four-state region.

*The World Health Organization Global Report on Diabetes demonstrates that the number of adults living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980.