Michael Garron Hospital is thinking outside-the-box when it comes to keeping patients with diabetes moving.
The Diabetes Walking Clinic, first introduced in 2012, is a simple yet effective way to reduce complications from type 2 diabetes. The program continues today as the only one-of-its- kind in Canada.
Abu Hamid and his family have been touched by diabetes and its complications, which commonly include heart disease, kidney disease and eye damage.
Abu has been a member of the Clinic for several years and describes it as “the best – a wonderful system and team that really benefits diabetes patients.”
Every three months he joins a group of five others with complex type 2 diabetes for a combined clinical visit and group walking session around the neighbourhood; the visit includes endocrinologist, Dr. Rebecca Fine, a diabetes educator nurse, and students and/or medical residents.
Blood pressure, waist circumference, and weight are taken at each clinic, and participants check blood glucose readings before and after their walks.
During the moderately-paced walk, Dr. Fine rotates to talk individually with each patient, but having the full team take part in the walk means “all possible expertise is available and there’s always someone who can answer all types of questions,” says Abu.
“I take walking as part of my medicine”
Results are tremendous. Abu has learned that “every step counts” and is amazed by his blood sugar results which always drop by four or five units from just a half hour walk.
“I take walking as part of my medicine and have been able to reduce my insulin units by two-thirds since becoming more active,” says Abu.
“I used to fear walking because of osteoporosis and believed that only jogging or speed walking would help me, but now I know that every step of walking counts.”
The Clinic has motivated Abu to make walking a regular part of his daily life, even if it means walking in the lobby of his building. He now monitors his daily steps and consistently meets his goal of 7,000-10,000 steps per day.
“Seeing blood sugar improvements through walking is extremely powerful for people with type 2 diabetes who constantly deal with frustrations of diet and medication therapies,” says Lisa Sparrow, clinical nurse specialist – diabetes.
“They see that walking effectively works along with their other efforts to benefit their blood sugars and reduce risk, and is affordable and enjoyable!”
It’s also a positive step for employee health; it’s rare that a single, simple and affordable practice can so significantly affect multiple health factors for both patients and providers at the same time.
The Diabetes Walking Clinic has made a big impression on the students and family practice residents who train at MGH, many of whom are keen to implement something similar in their own practices.