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Occupational Therapy Program Helps Young Adult Diabetes Patients

Posted by Brian Spence on May 11, 2018 8:00:00 AM

Diabetes, Occupational TherapyYoung adult diabetes patients are learning how to better manage their disease thanks to a new occupational therapy program. Participants that completed the Resilient, Empowered, Active Living with Diabetes Program (REAL Diabetes) experienced better health outcomes and a higher quality of life. 

Young people learned self-care and health tips during the educational program and participants that completed the program significantly improved their blood glucose levels.

The University of Southern California research conducted the research study and Principal Investigator Elizabeth Pyatak led the randomized control trial. This scientist is an assistant professor at the university's Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. The new study was published in Diabetes Care, a refereed journal publication, on January 19th of this year.

The REAL Diabetes Program. Occupational therapists taught the REAL Diabetes instructional program to young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, specifically racial and ethnic minorities. According to Pyatak, adolescence poses enormous challenges for young diabetes patients. Their disease management is complicated by several challenges including social issues, financial constraints, and barriers to care.

During the program, the occupational therapist guided students through instructional modules that focused on their goals and activities. Students learned how to manage their disease. Additionally, young people learned to advocate for their health, find social support, and deal with their long-term health and emotions.

  • Courses were provided in English and Spanish. Scientists targeted the program at Los Angeles residents, 18-30 years old. Forty-one participants completed the program.

  • The researchers also set up a control group of 40 individuals. These individuals received routine home visits by occupational therapists. Instructors also provided this group with educational materials about their disease and how to control it.

  • REAL Diabetes program members had significant improvements in their hemoglobin A1c levels. The test was conducted by Alere Afinion's HbA1c blood analysis.

  • Pyatak believes the program can make a difference in the lives of 30 million Americans suffering from diabetes.

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