Eight percent of the American population has diabetes, with 1.9 million new cases diagnosed every year. Such staggering statistics are an everyday reality for Allyson Fleischman, who witnesses the long-term complications of diabetes in her physical therapy practice. “The only good news is that diabetes is manageable,” she says. “With the right nutrition and exercise, people can control the disease.”
At Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, Fleischman treats diabetics already suffering from complications, including wounds that won’t heal, neuropathy that affects balance and walking, and impaired blood flow that can lead to amputations. There, a patient suggested that Bryn Mawr Rehab make information about diabetes management more readily available. “It was the idea that we should provide education to patients wherever we encounter their need for it—not just in a primary-care setting,” Fleischman says. “Repeating the message helps, plus there are always advances in diabetes care that they need to know.”
During 10 months in 2008, Fleischman collaborated with colleagues at Main Line Health to create a three-part, multidisciplinary diabetes-education program, along with community outreach initiatives like Get Moving to Control Diabetes. “It’s everything from blood-sugar checks and medications to diet and portion control, to skin issues and the benefits of physical activity,” says Fleischman.
She’ll soon see the efficacy of her efforts in the most personal way: Her grandfather—newly diagnosed with diabetes—will attend her next education program.