This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Diabetes Education Center at Winthrop-University Hospital, a highly regarded program that has been helping to improve the lives of countless individuals living with diabetes through education and support. The first program in New York State to be accredited by the American Diabetes Association, Winthrop's Diabetes Education Center has been helping the community manage the disease through information, education and support for one quarter of a century.
Margaret Marinelli, Registered Dietician (right), shows patient Elizabeth Brennan what to look for when reading food labels.
With one out of every 17 people in the United States living with diabetes and the trend of childhood and adult obesity on the rise, diabetes has become a leading cause of death for millions of Americans each year. But, armed with the special educational programs provided at Winthrop's Diabetes Education Center, individuals of all ages can successfully manage their disease and lead healthy, active lives.
Elizabeth Brennan of Centerport, who has been living with diabetes for 48 years, can certainly attest to the successful impact Winthrop's program has had on her life. Since stepping foot into her first diabetes education class at the center in 1980, Mrs. Brennan's life has changed dramatically.
"I first went to Winthrop's Diabetes Education Center because I needed information on my disease and how to manage it," explained Mrs. Brennan. "I was just floundering for so many years with no information to guide me. The education I have received has been invaluable and has helped me manage my disease for more than 20 years."
"Our programs offer people with diabetes a hands-on, practical approach to the real life challenges of careful monitoring, diet, and nutrition, providing them with the tools they need to make informed decisions," stated Virginia Peragallo-Dittko, RN, Director of the Diabetes Education Center at Winthrop.
Over the past 25 years, significant strides have been made in the management of the disease. Advances such as blood glucose monitoring, new types of insulin and oral medications, and new information on nutrition have made it possible to put an individual's health back into their own hands. At Winthrop's Diabetes Education Center, patients are taught how to take charge of their lives and their disease. Special workshops touch upon such important topics as nutrition, monitoring blood glucose levels and how to incorporate exercise into a healthier lifestyle.
In the classroom, shelves lined with all types of grocery store food serve as real-life visual learning aids. Ms. Peragallo-Dittko explained, "We use these foods to demonstrate that in the right amount, you can eat just about anything."
Programs like the Center's 'Dining Out' series teaches groups how to eat sensibly when dining out at a variety of restaurants. Other programs offered through the Center include insulin pump training sessions, exercise programs, product fairs and support groups for children with diabetes.
Diabetes prevention is also stressed to individuals at high risk for developing the disease. Specialists can monitor those found to have pre-diabetes, a condition that leads to the disease in the future. Early treatment, including healthy eating, exercises and modest weight loss can help prevent the onset of diabetes.
Winthrop's Diabetes Education Center employs two registered dieticians specializing in diabetes as well as a diabetes nurse specialist. Patients of the Center also have the distinct advantage of Winthrop's multidisciplinary approach to healthcare management and access to the Hospital's specialized Institutes for Care.
"While managing diabetes can be overwhelming at times, the staff at Winthrop's Diabetes Education Center has made it much easier," said Mrs. Brennan. "The staff really cares and welcomes you with open arms. The minute you step inside, you just know everything will be OK."
For more information on the Diabetes Education Center at Winthrop-University Hospital, call (516) 663-2350.