Maintaining good health can be a struggle for many Veterans, but it can be even more so in rural locations where preventative health care can be more challenging to find. One of the missions of the Hampton VA Medical Center’s Rural Health Initiative (RHI) team is to reach out to these areas and provide health care education to Veterans in rural Northeastern North Carolina and Southeastern Virginia.
“We know that if we can engage Veterans and encourage them to talk about health care, we can help them,” said Debra Frondelli, Hampton VAMC nurse educator. “As part of the RHI team, it’s my job to teach Veterans about ways to self-manage their health care.”
Frondelli is one of two nurse educators who travel to the rural areas that are part of Hampton’s catchment area to educate Veterans about diabetes and ways to manage their condition as part of the Diabetes Self-Management Program (DSME).
“We want to empower Veterans to make changes necessary to manage their diabetes,” said Frondelli. “We have partnered with a lot of American Legions and VFWs throughout the area to help us promote the program among their members.”
Through the DSME outreach program, the RHI team has touched the lives of over 120 Veterans and 20 family members.
As part of the program, the nurse educators conduct a series of one-hour classes designed to help Veterans learn how to manage their condition. The classes are held once a month for six months and include topics such as Healthy Eating, Being Active, Blood Sugar/Taking Medications, Problem Solving and Healthy Coping. The nurses also help Veterans track their blood pressure, estimated average glucose (A1c) and weight management.
According to Frondelli, the Veterans who participated in past events had varying degrees of success in reducing their weight and lowering their blood pressure and A1C. She added that many Veterans reported how much better they felt with even minor changes in behaviors.
According to the American Diabetic Association (ADA), rates in diabetes cases are 17% higher in rural areas than in urban communities. Access to health care remains a significant issue in rural areas.
The RHI team educates Veterans with diabetes that they make decisions daily regarding self-care that can impact short and long-term clinical outcomes. Behavioral changes are crucial to the management of diabetes. They spread the word that without adequate knowledge and support, successful change is unlikely.