Trenton Health Team recently published a story in the Merck Foundation Bridging the Gap in Diabetes Care newsletter about a new approach to peer mentoring.
“The Project Dulce training session began like other meetings hosted by Trenton Health Team (THT) — a knowledgeable moderator addressing interested individuals seated at long conference tables. Then out came the dusting mitts. And the curlers. And a streamer of sugar packets stretching across the room.
This was no ordinary diabetes education lecture; this was show and tell.
Project Dulce, a program of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute, uses a curriculum called “Diabetes Among Friends” featuring practical advice and real-life examples to train peer educators to share understandable diabetes care and education that still meets American Diabetes Association standards.
The dust mitt with its yarn tentacles illustrated a healthy pancreas; turned inside out it represented a diseased pancreas that cannot provide insulin. The hair curler stuffed with paper showed how plaque clogs arteries. The string of 33 sugar packets is the amount of sweetener in a two-liter bottle of soda.
“It wasn’t just talk,” said Cheryl Towns, RN., B.S.N., THT Nurse Care Manager. “It was ‘let me show you’.”
Which is exactly why Ernie Morganstern, THT Senior Director of Population Health, invited Project Dulce to Trenton. Thirteen percent of adults in Trenton have diabetes, exceeding both the national rate of 10.8% (2016), and the New Jersey rate of 11% (2018). Diabetes is the eighth leading cause of death in New Jersey, with nearly 2,000 deaths per year.
“One of the things we wanted was an appropriate literacy level, literacy not just in reading and understanding, but also a health literacy level–meaning the ability to deliver this program to 15 different people in the same room at different health literacy levels and bring them along together,” Morganstern said. “It’s always good to have extra mentors in the community.”