Telephone support for diabetes patients

updon signDiabetes is on the verge of becoming a health crisis in the United States. It’s already one of the country’s leading causes of death. As ABC 10 senior reporter Mike Hoey reports, a diabetes organization in the U.P. is responding to the rising trend by expanding its support services via telephone.

The U.P. Diabetes Outreach Network recently received a $22,000 grant from the Superior Health Foundation to start the pilot program. It’ll be aimed at patients with limited or no health insurance who are willing to commit to lifestyle changes to better manage the disease.

“What we’re seeing, at least in my practice, is lots of people being unable to afford the therapies and unable to afford the education that they need,” UPDON diabetes educator Paula Ackerman said.

The phone program will be free of charge for patients. It’ll include a face–to–face meeting with a diabetes educator, like Ackerman at Munising Memorial Hospital, and then check–up phone calls at least once a month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, a more than 350% increase since 1980. Diabetes is also the seventh-leading cause of death in the country, killing nearly 70,000 Americans each year.

“Currently, the U.P. looks like the rest of the country,” Marquette County Health Department medical director Dr. Terry Frankovich said. “We’re talking about on the order of more than a quarter of seniors 65 and over having diabetes even now.”

The diabetes phone support system will be available sometime within the next few months. “We’re in the early stages, and kind of in the enrollment stages trying to identify who those individuals are, because it would be a year–long program that we would be following these individuals,” Ackerman said.

“If you look at prevention techniques for weight loss, increased activity, we can make a tremendous dent in the number of cases of diabetes, so anything we can do that helps people along that path is great,” Dr. Frankovich said.

The program will start with about 20 patients in seven U.P. counties. Those areas would be Marquette, Alger, Delta, Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Luce Counties.

UPDON hopes to eventually expand the program to other areas if it can secure more funding. Anyone who wants more information about the phone program can reach UPDON at (906) 228–9203 or by emailing .