It was about twelve years ago when I first experienced type 2 diabetes up close: a friend’s mother was diagnosed.    Back then, it was generally assumed that insulin injections would be the next step and nothing could really change that fact.  Rather than just sit around and wait for her diabetes to progress, though, my friend’s mother chose to get proactive about preventative care.  She found support groups, interviewed nutritionists, spoke with exercise instructors, radically changed her diet, and implemented an age-appropriate exercise regimen.  She is able to control her diabetes without insulin injections.  To this day, she has experienced no real diminution in her quality of life.

As you can imagine, talking to all those experts took time.  What took even longer was finding them.  She was practicing what is now called “Disease Management,” a coordination of health care professionals and techniques designed for assisting patients that can benefit from self-care.  Similar to how our health coaches help us establish realistic and meaningful health goals for a long, happy, and productive life, disease management creates an environment that coordinates many different facets of long-term care.  Each patient has access to the proper and necessary medications.  With disease management in play, he or she also has the information needed for healthful eating and exercise habits. Psychological well-being is also addressed.

Obviously, this is great for patients.  It’s also positive for insurers and employers.  Using disease management techniques, insurers have lower costs over the course of the illness.  Employers also benefit from fewer absences and on-the-job injuries.  One thing that employers can do is to follow the lead of insurance companies.  It is easy to find materials published by insurance companies covering chronic diseases, medication compliance, physical fitness programs, and the like.  Employers can help disease management become a reality by encouraging regular checkups and making the time available for employees who have been diagnosed with chronic illness.  Implementing a comprehensive wellness plan, with disease management included, is one of the best things any organization can do.

Just like working closely with a health coach, disease management makes good sense for everybody by recognizing and utilizing the mind-body-spirit connection that creates the path to greater health and happiness.

Jackie Ostrikis MS CPT