The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has authorized a new group to help incarcerated people manage their diabetes.
The group is called the Diabetes Self-Management and Education Support (DSMES) group.
“It’s a six week group with the goal to improve the health outcomes of those with diabetes through high-quality, patient-centered diabetes education,” said San Quentin Dietician R. Reithman.
Participants who complete this six week program may receive a certificate and Rehabilitation Achievement Credits for taking the initiative to improve their health, according to Reithman.
“You’re going to learn what is diabetes, what coping skills are — healthy coping skills can help with stress with being in prison,” she said.
Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (blood sugar), which over time leads to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves, according to the World Health Organization.
The most common form of diabetes is Type-2, which occurs if the body becomes resistant to insulin.
The 2022 National Diabetes Statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an estimated 130 million adults in the United States have pre-diabetes.
“Roughly 11% of Americans are living with diabetes and 38% of US adults are living with pre-diabetes,” said Reithman. “The good news is diabetes is preventable and treatable.”
People develop diabetes from eating a poor diet full of carbs, sugar, and empty of nutrients as well as a lack of exercise and by having a family history of diabetes.
Reithman encourages incarcerated people to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables (limit carbs like bread, rice, cereal) and to exercise and take medication as prescribed by the doctor, such as for high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
She also recommends routine doctor’s visits and blood work to prevent or diagnose the disease early, which is beneficial to health outcomes.
“Individuals that live with uncontrolled diabetes for a longer period of time are at a higher risk for developing complications from diabetes,” said Reithman. “Don’t throw away fruits and vegetables.”
The peer-oriented group aims to improve self-management, motivation and problem-solving skills for those with diabetes; create sustainable behavior changes and measurable improvements in A1c levels, fasting blood glucose and blood pressure; and provide ongoing diabetes support.
“There is evidence of a link between peer group participation in DSMES groups and positive behavior changes and improved outcomes,” according to Ms. R.
“Group sizes are limited and priority goes to those with an elevated A1C, but anyone can submit a request to participate to be in this group,” she said.
Over the next few weeks, Reithman also plans to put up pictures of the foods incarcerated people eat and the nutrition labels so they can actively protect their own health. The labels will help them get a sense of the calories they eat, how to count them and how to avoid dangerous empty calories.
Anyone who would like to participate in the new diabetes group should turn in a medical request slip to speak with a primary care physician about the program.