Birmingham Takes A Small Town Approach To Diabetes Care

Cities for Life Established in Birmingham

When it comes to efficient treatment of diabetes, there can be a divide between the doctor’s office and the patient’s everyday life. This presents a significant barrier that must be overcome when it comes to diabetes care. People with type 2 diabetes may only interact with their doctor for a combined six hours of the course of a year. If you live in a urban neighborhood, then it can be difficult resist food temptations and get the exercise that you need.

This gap between everyday life and the doctor’s office has inspired a new “small-town approach” to diabetes care dubbed Cities for Life. The program, which was pioneered here in Birmingham, recruits partners from the local area to help diabetics stay on track when it comes to their diabetes treatment plan. This can include making difficult changes to their diet, getting more exercise, and monitoring stress levels. If you are a diabetic, then you can go to My Diabetes Connect to find local health assistance.

Cities for Life Launched in Birmingham Last Year

“As a clinician, I’m seeing somebody and maybe looking at their glucose levels or giving them a prescription, and then they meet with a nutritionist who tells them basics about what they can do, but it’s up to them to go back to where they live or work and implement that,” states Dr. Andrea Cherrington, a practicing physician and established diabetes researcher who has helped connect Cities of Life with the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB). “This is a way to touch base with all the resources there that can help you do that.”

Cities for Life was launched last year as a partnership between the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, UAB, and Sanofi US. Birmingham made for the ideal testing spot for two essential reasons. For one thing, the city is not large enough to prevent the cultivation of a community element. Secondly, this city is located right in the middle of the so-called “diabetes belt” that resides in the southeastern United States.

Getting More Personalized Diabetes Care

The My Diabetes Connect website has been popularized by a number of health activities and services for diabetics that have been promoted by local organizations. Patients can sign up for a wide variety of things ranging from local Zumba lessons to a health lecture at their own church. Dr. Cherrington recommends this site as a valuable resource for clinicians as well, since it can allow them to provide much more personalized care than a simple prescription can.

This site can also provide aid for family members who may be concerned about the health of their loved ones. A few surveys, which were conducted at the start of the program, have revealed that, while patients had access to social support systems for diabetes management, they were not given the right motivation. With that in mind, improved community outreach can provide a significant level of support for the families in addition to the patient.

Scouring Birmingham for the Best Local Volunteers

This program is much more than an online phone book tailored to the needs of diabetics and their families. The Cities for Life volunteers have gone all over Birmingham in search of the best partners, calling or visiting as many local community groups as possible. This grassroots initiative has been able to establish the Community Action Team for Birmingham area patients, which consists of at least 80 official Cities for Life partners.

In the end, Dr. Cherrington hopes that this small-town approach to diabetes-related care will extend to more cities in the diabetes belt and elsewhere. Looking forward, she believes that this movement could help promote a louder discussion about diabetes. For the time being, the program leaders are working to sustain and build upon the presence that Cities for Life has in metropolitan Birmingham following the end of its first funding period.


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