Sugar, Heart and Life: A guide to living with diabetes

Receiving a diabetes diagnosis can be challenging, especially because it requires a lot of self-care and understanding about how to live with the disorder.

Dr. Luis Rustveld, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at BCM, says that after a diabetes diagnosis, most doctors provide educational brochures. “Some patients throw the brochure away the minute they get out of the office!” he says. “Most never actually read the content.”

Learning to live with diabetes

Several years ago, Rustveld helped organize a focus group of Spanish- and English-speaking patients with diabetes, and asked them: How do you want to receive information about health? The goal was to learn how to help patients get information that’s culturally and linguistically appropriate.

Sugar, Heart and Life Infomarket
Sugar, Heart and Life Infomarket

Overall, patients responded that they enjoy getting information in a story-like format and participating in interactive programs. This data led to the creation of Sugar, Heart and Life: A Guide to Living with Diabetes.

The SHL program is available in both English and Spanish, and can be accessed as an online resource or as DVDs that you can order. The online program includes a soap-opera like story in which you can follow the Gonzalez family as they learn about living with diabetes.

While scenes from the program play, you make decisions for family members, and see the consequences of these decisions five years down the road.

Tips for living with diabetes

Besides participating in the story, you can visit the “infomarket” for a complete, interactive learning experience.

The infomarket includes:

  • A guide to understanding diabetes
  • Tips for living with diabetes, which range from eating at home, eating out, exercise, medication, and more
  • Printable recipes from the story, plus advice for healthy, flavorful cooking
  • Information on how to accurately read food labels
  • Planning for physical activity

You can explore both the Gonzalez’s story and the infomarket at your own pace.

Benefits for health care professionals

The SHL program isn’t just valuable for individuals who are seeking to understand their diabetes better—it’s also helpful for health care professionals.

Dr. Maria Jibaja-Weiss, director of the Office of Outreach and Health Disparities at BCM and project leader for the SHL program, says that there’s a version of the program specifically for health professionals, with features that make it even easier to use as part of group classes or one-on-one meetings.

This version includes a special menu for episode topics so professionals can choose parts of the program to demonstrate specific themes about living with diabetes.

She thinks the most beneficial part of the SHL program, though, is participating in the story as it unfolds.

“Watching the entire story of the Gonzalez family journey,” says Jibaja-Weiss, “And seeing the consequences of certain actions in the future is very valuable to users.”

Check out the Sugar, Heart and Life program and see other free programs and resources from BCM’s Office of Outreach and Health Disparities.

-By Jordan Magaziner

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