This week I received this question from http://foodpicker.org:

I am trying to find a class for our grandson.  He is 19 and has a part-time job but no insurance.  He just found out last week that he has type 1 diabetes after losing a lot of weight and his blood sugar was 523.  He is on insulin but needs to go to a class to manage his diabetes without going hungry.  Where do we start?  Any suggestions would help us a lot.

Finding out you have diabetes can be a scary time, and can leave you wondering what to do first. To a lot of people it can be overwhelming, learning to take new medications, insulin, and for many, having to alter their lifestyle. Fortunately, there is hope! People with diabetes can live full, long, happy lives, just like anyone else. The secret to their success is being educated on the disease, how to manage it, and in making life-long healthy habits.

Bravo to you and your grandson for seeking out education right away. To get started, I recommend taking a look at the National Diabetes Education website developed by the CDC. It has a wealth of information to browse through:  http://ndep.nih.gov/index.aspx. There are many other useful internet sites out there on diabetes education, but be careful of their credibility. Government run websites, or national programs such as the American Diabetes Association are among the best.

Many cities offer local, free, community diabetes education classes. These classes will educate you on the disease itself,  introduce you to diet management, how to use a glucometer, how to administer insulin, how to treat various symptoms such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and may even provide cooking classes. State health departments are a great way to locate these programs, and can refer you to local sources  for more information. Check out
http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/states/index.htm to find the contact information for your state.
Hospitals often offer free classes as well, by a certified diabetes educator. You might be  really surprised how much your community has to offer!

It may be beneficial to consider a health insurance option, as the cost of doctor visits, medications,  and test strips  can become burdensome. The American Diabetes Association has some options you may want to check out:
http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/health-insurance-options/

This site also provides  a consumer guide to state insurance mandated coverage, Medicaid coverage, and state-sponsored diabetes programs:
 http://www.ncsl.org/IssuesResearch/Health/DiabetesHealthCoverageStateLawsandPrograms/tabid/14504/Default.aspx http://www.ncsl.org/IssuesResearch/Health/DiabetesHealthCoverageStateLawsandPrograms/tabid/14504/Default.aspx

You are not alone. The prevalence of diabetes in our country has led to the development of a ton of resources and free education programs. Your community is there to help.  The important thing to remember is that the more knowledge you seek about diabetes, the better off you are. As a soon-to-be dietitian, I am quite the believer that educating yourself, and developing healthy eating habits now will set you up wonderfully for the rest of your life. You can be your own diabetes expert, and can spread the wealth of knowledge to someone else you may encounter in need.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me at erbasham@gmail.com. Until next time!