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Many experts agree the most effective way to reduce the cost of health care is to reduce the demand for medical services altogether via wellness and disease prevention efforts.

Achieving those wellness improvements is one of the objectives of a new program Mount Desert Island Hospital is rolling out to identify those who are potentially at risk to develop diabetes and help those already afflicted better manage their care. The program will use the greater MDI community as a pilot and then later expand throughout Hancock and Washington counties.

MDI Hospital has received a three-year grant to lead a group of local agencies in the development and implementation of a patient-based program to identify those who may be at risk for diabetes and provide evidence-based methods on finding ways to improve their health. The nearly $450,000 grant from the Health Resources Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will fund outreach and education programs specifically addressing members of the community who are at risk to develop diabetes or whose illness is not adequately managed.

“We do a good job of treating complications of diabetes on MDI. This grant gives us the opportunity to see that more of the community gets help with preventing the progression to diabetes before the devastating complications occur,” said Julian Kuffler, MD, the program’s medical director.  “I am excited by the possibility of having an impact early in the course of an illness where the intervention will help make a healthier community.”

The program is based on research that indicates that people with blood sugar or glucose levels that are above normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetic, can prevent the onset of the disease through modest weight loss, healthy eating, and increased physical activity.

This new outreach program will expand upon existing diabetes self management training by addressing some of the obstacles to participation such as transportation, convenience, and readiness to change.  It will also bring resources to a larger, at-risk pre-diabetic population that has not been included in previous efforts.

To reach this larger audience with higher success rates, the program will train volunteer Community Health Care Workers (CHCW) who will be a patient’s guide to services and programs to improve their overall health and wellness. “If you’ve already discovered the benefits of modest lifestyle changes and are looking to give something back to your community, this is a great way to help others reach their health goals,” said Aimee Walls, RN, MDI Hospital’s director of care management.

This program will create a consortium between MDI Hospital, University of New England, Healthy Acadia and the Mount Desert Nursing Association. MDI Hospital’s Community Health Center in Southwest Harbor will be the home for the first medical team of the medical director, nurse care coordinators, and community health care workers. Healthy Acadia will take the lead in developing training programs to include motivational interviewing, self management skills, and health screening techniques. The Mount Desert Nursing Association will provide services to patients who require home visits. The University of New England’s Center for Community and Public Health will design and implement research initiatives to evaluate the effectiveness of the clinical programs.

If you are interested in volunteering to be a part of the program or for more information, contact Walls at 288-5082 ext. 1385 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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