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October Partner Spotlight

Diabetes Educator Links NDEP’s Diabetes HealthSense to Improved Patient Outcomes

Partner Spotlight: Diabetes Educator Links NDEP’s Diabetes HealthSense to Improved Patient Outcomes As National Diabetes Month Approaches, Diabetes Educator Debbie Zlomek lives the National Diabetes Education Program’s (NDEP) 2015 campaign message—Diabetes Education and Support: Everyone Has a Role. What’s Yours?—through her work at Pottstown (Pa.) Medical Specialists Inc. (PMSI) with help from the NDEP’s Diabetes HealthSense.

Zlomek serves more than 900 patients at PMSI, a privately owned physician practice with seven sites that serves a tri-county region in Eastern Pennsylvania. She began her work there in 2009, the same year she discovered NDEP’s resources, which she says she likes because they are free, hands-on, and available in a variety of learning styles for patients.

Each year PMSI identifies an area to improve patient outcomes. In the last year, this quality improvement project centered on increasing physical activity in patients and assessing the effect of that activity on A1C levels and weight.

About Deb Zlomek, RN, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM:
  • A 26-year resident of Sanatoga, Pa., Zlomek earned her nursing degree from Montgomery County Community College.
  • Earned her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Arizona
  • Earned the level of BC-ADM (board certification in advanced diabetes management) from the American Association of Diabetes Educators in August 2015
  • Was named the 2015 winner of the YWCA Tri-County Area Exceptional Woman Award in Science, Technology and Math

“Chronic diseases need both pharmacological and lifestyle interventions to improve outcomes,” Zlomek says, adding that the benefit of Diabetes HealthSense is that it presents different exercise programs for patients. “They enjoy having the ability to customize their own educational package and change it as their needs and goals change,” Zlomek says.

Zlomek introduced patients to Diabetes HealthSense and trained them how to access and use its resources, including Go4Life program from the National Institute of Aging. After tracking her patients’ behavior change for a full year, Zlomek found that 80 percent had achieved their behavioral goal of 150 minutes of activity per week, while their A1C had fallen by an average of 1.5 percent and their weight decreased by an average of 5 pounds.

As Zlomek reflects on these improved outcomes in her patients—and the role of Diabetes HealthSense—she says she would like to see insurance companies consider education as a preventive service.

“The number of people with diabetes is outpacing the number of diabetes educators,” Zlomek says. “Health insurance companies must consider education as preventive services and make it a covered service. What better way to promote health than to provide education?”

At the same time, Zlomek says, diabetes educators need to evaluate how their role has evolved in the current health care environment.

“I think diabetes educators need to rethink how they deliver education,” she says. “You need to bring education to the patient—not the patient to education.

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September Partner Spotlight

The Road to Health Toolkit Hits the Border City of El Paso, Texas

Role Playing: A family conversation with a community health worker after a diabetes diagnosis. The workshop welcomed more than 40 participants. The National Diabetes Education Program’s (NDEP) Road to Health Toolkit found its way this past summer to a workshop in El Paso, Texas, where diabetes is prevalent in this border city.

In June, a group in El Paso began their instruction to become “Promotoras de Salud,” or certified community health workers who are members of a target population that share many social, cultural, and economic characteristics. According to HHS’ Rural Assistance Center, “promotoras” provide culturally appropriate services and serve as patient advocates, educators, mentors, outreach workers and translators.

Role Playing: A family conversation with a community health worker after a diabetes diagnosis. Role Playing: A family conversation with a community health worker after a diabetes diagnosis. Familias Triunfadoras is a women-led, community-based organization that certifies community health workers in El Paso and works to empower women and families along the United States-Mexico border who are victims and survivors of domestic and dating violence. Because diabetes is prevalent in this area, Role Playing: A family conversation with a community health worker after a diabetes diagnosis. A community health worker shown taking the road to health. Familias Triunfadoras has worked with the NDEP to increase the capacity of Promotores de Salud in diabetes prevention to address this serious public health issue.

“Diabetes is a growing problem here in the border” said workshop trainer Rosalba Ruiz- Holguin, who explained that 7.3 percent of El Paso residents reported having diabetes, compared with the state prevalence statistic of 6.5 percent. Meanwhile, Ruiz-Holguin added that El Paso Hispanics have the highest prevalence at 8.1 percent, while non-Hispanics have a prevalence rate of 5.5 percent, and diabetes risk for families is significantly higher among Hispanic families.

May Covernali, executive director for Familias Triunfadoras, said diabetes is a major priority in the group’s program.

“The Road to Health Toolkit is a way to teach promotoras an interactive, motivating series of steps with specific messages in order for the individual to start identifying diabetes risk factors, types of diabetes, and prevention measures against this deadly disease,” Covernali said.

For more information about Familias Triunfadoras, please visit our website at, email Mary Covernali at, visit us at 125000 Socorro Road, San Elizario, TX 79849, call us at 1 (915) 851-1622, or like us on Facebook.

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July Partner Spotlight

NDEP Partner Elizabeth Venditti, Ph.D. Relies on NDEP Resources to Support Lifestyle Change

Partner Spotlight: NDEP Partner Elizabeth Venditti, Ph.D. Relies on NDEP Resources to Support Lifestyle Change For the University of Pittsburgh’s Elizabeth Venditti, Ph.D. the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has become an integral component of her work to help people change their lifestyles and manage their diabetes.

A clinical health psychologist, Venditti found her way to a career largely focused on diabetes prevention through her early work and research in obesity back in the mid-1990s with Rena Wing, PhD.

“I was always very interested not only in the idea of managing a disease that could cause problems, but doing so in a way that helps people feel good,” Venditti said. “I think that’s what has kept me in the field: what I’m really interested in is helping people not feel futile about having an impact on their lives—both physical and mental.”

And that’s where the work of the NDEP enters in.

About Elizabeth Venditti
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh (since 2010)
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh (since 2005)
  • Principal Investigator, Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study (DPPOS), University of Pittsburgh (2002-2015)
  • Faculty, Diabetes Prevention Support Center, University of Pittsburgh (since 2005)
  • NDEP partner since 2002

“I was on the first committee to take the DPP and say, ‘How do we communicate this to a primary care physician?’” Venditti explained. She referred to the Diabetes Prevention Program—the landmark study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health—that found people at increased risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight through increased physical activity and a reduced-fat and lower-calorie diet. It was this research that led to the Small Steps. Big Rewards. Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. campaign, which Venditti cited as a prime example of how the NDEP applies research in a way that can help people make changes in their lifestyles and health. That’s especially useful today, as providers and payers emphasize evidence-based care to improve quality, enhance outcomes and lower costs.

“What NDEP does so well is taking these evidence-based interventions—whether it be in diabetes education or in behavior change—and putting them in materials, toolkits and one-pagers, and making them widely accessible to patients, providers and families,” Venditti said. As one example, she said the NDEP’s It’s Not Too Late to Prevent Diabetes resource is ideal for older adults (a focus of her current research) in the pre-diabetes phase because it provides a practical program they can follow—and see real results.

“Even if you have a really terrific drug that helps you keep your glucose in control, you really need to mind your lifestyle,” Venditti said. “Depending on how challenged you are—in terms of your work, family, social or economic stress—I think often one’s lifestyle takes a backburner,” she added. “We try to help people find manageable ways to make their lifestyle central.”

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May Partner Spotlight

NDEP Resource Set to Hit ‘70s Song Helps Novant Health Educate Older Adults about Diabetes

Partner Spotlight: NDEP Resource Set to Hit ‘70s Song Helps Novant Health Educate Older Adults about Diabetes Multiple Grammy winner Paul Simon might be surprised to learn one of his biggest solo hits influenced a diabetes presentation in North Carolina nearly four decades later after he released it.

That’s what happened when Marcy Shipwash, a registered nurse and wellness and disease navigator at Novant Health’s Thomasville (N.C.) Medical Center, used the song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” as the backdrop for her diabetes prevention presentation featuring the National Diabetes Education Program’s (NDEP) Choose More Than 50 Ways to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Partner Spotlight: NDEP Resource Set to Hit ‘70s Song Helps Novant Health Educate Older Adults about Diabetes

Set to the strains of Simon’s late 1975 hit, Shipwash’s presentation—specifically for older adults—highlighted a range of topics, such as how to learn your risk for type 2 diabetes, ways to stay active, and tips about healthy foods and portion control.

“The participants loved the presentation” Shipwash said, adding that attendees tapped their toes and sung along as she presented. “It was helpful that the tip sheet is based on a song they already know. It made the information easier for them to remember.”

That’s especially important, given that 1 out of every 4 people over the age of 65 in the United States has diabetes. To help this population learn more about the disease, the NDEP’s Diabetes Resources for Older Adults web page offers older Americans—as well as caregivers and health care professionals of older adults—information that can help older adults learn how to manage their diabetes and take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes.

To learn more about the Novant Health Thomasville (N.C) Medical Center, or Shipwash’s presentation, please contact her directly at

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March Partner Spotlight

Past NDEP Chair Marti Funnell Highlights the Emotional Aspects of Diabetes.

Partner Spotlight: ADRC of Waukesha CountyAs a trained diabetes educator and nurse, Marti Funnell understood the importance of patient-centered care long before it became a catch phrase in the era of health care reform.

Funnell, a national leader in diabetes education, was the first non-physician to serve as National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) Chair from 2008 until 2011, and she has worked as an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Medical School’s Department of Learning Health Sciences since 2012. Her range of experience in both research and practice—which includes working as a staff nurse at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. early in her career—prepared her for what excites her most in her profession today: a greater focus on patient-centered care and the emotional side of diabetes.

As she explained, the NDEP spent many years developing and promoting messages on what patients should do, but that was not enough to help people change their lifestyles and improve their health.

Partner Spotlight: ADRC of Waukesha County“We gave a lot of messages that you need to exercise and eat better, but everybody kind of knows that,” Funnell said. What the NDEP had not done, she continued, was explain exactly how people can also make those lifestyle changes. “You don’t just change behavior based on knowledge. You have to understand the ‘why,’ and it’s also helping people figure out the ‘how.’”

Enter Diabetes HealthSense, the NDEP’s online library of resources for patients and health care professionals to help people with diabetes live well, meet their goals, and improve their health. According to Funnell, Diabetes HealthSense has been instrumental in the effort to assist patients in managing their diabetes.

“It goes beyond tips. It’s helping people put it all together,” she said of the NDEP’s purpose and mission. “We came to recognition that we needed to focus on helping patients change behavior, and Diabetes HealthSense was a big part of that effort.” Funnell considers this work—and the effects it has had on patients—as one of the NDEP’s important accomplishments to date.

And it is this effort that connects so well with what Funnell calls the “emotional side” of diabetes. That aspect is an additional factor that all patients, as well as their families, must live with and must manage each day.

“There’s this underlying sense that this is a tough disease to live with, so helping people address that component affects their behavior and metabolic outcomes,” Funnell said. The starting point for that conversation, she explained, is to help patients assess the hardest aspect of diabetes is for them, rather than launch into a spiel on diabetes.

Looking ahead, Funnell said she hopes both patients and health care professionals know about the valuable resources the NDEP has to offer.

“We have done a really good job,” she said, “creating materials that fit in the world of diabetes today.”

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