Nutrition programs help patients manage diabetes at Diabetes Education Center | Ascension

Nutrition programs help patients manage diabetes at Diabetes Education Center

Ascension St. Mary's Diabetes Education Center in Saginaw, MI, supports patients with diabetes and preventive care with nutrition education programs

“My goal is for patients to complete our program with confidence that they can successfully manage their diagnosis, and avoid complications related to diabetes and other disease states," said Katie Lewinski, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist for the Ascension St. Mary’s Diabetes Education Center. 

The Ascension St. Mary’s Diabetes Education Center in Saginaw, MI, is accredited regionally by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and nationally through the Association of Diabetes Care and Education. The center offers a wide range of programs and services, including diabetes education classes, glucose monitoring, insulin medication training, nutrition education and counseling. .

“I’m focused on tailoring our programs to accommodate each patient’s unique needs and learning styles, including verbal, visual and written instruction," Lewinski said. “The staff works with each patient to design their very own personalized wellness plan. They also make certain each patient is equipped with the resources and treatment tools necessary to ensure their success. This includes educational programs or medications, monitoring their blood sugar, and managing symptoms to prevent potential complications related to diabetes.”

Diabetes preventive care through nutrition

The nutrition-based programming encourages patients to embrace making lifestyle changes, as opposed to unsuccessful dieting. In addition to establishing an individualized wellness plan, the staff also encourages patients to implement nutrition goals together as a family. Families that work together and support one another to make healthy food and lifestyle choices are more successful in achieving long term results. 

Simple household goals might include activities such as eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing excess carbohydrate intake, or exercising together as a family. The nutrition team understands that It takes time to implement lifestyle changes and creating a healthy support system is essential. Their goal is for patients to implement healthy habits that will last a lifetime with the knowledge they have gained to sustain results.

“My hope in the future is that proper nutrition education will begin at the preschool level. We need to change the trajectory of health in America, and the sooner we start educating children and families on proper nutrition to prevent development of chronic diseases the better,” Lewinski said. 

Diabetes programs for people of all ages

Recent studies have revealed that 77% of adolescents are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, and 40% are consuming less than one fruit or vegetable daily. This concern, among other worsening dietary and physical activity behaviors, are causing adolescents to develop preventable, chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity.

Throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region, there has been an increase in diabetes diagnoses and a need for educational programs to help patients better manage diabetes, according to the Saginaw County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) that is conducted collaboratively with people and organizations within Saginaw County, including Ascension St. Mary's hospital. The CHNA is conducted every three years to understand the most significant health needs across the region and create solutions to address barriers to implementing a healthier lifestyle in each and every household with no exception.

Lewinski believes that knowledge is power and everyone would benefit from participating in nutrition education, not just those struggling with their weight or disease management. Normal weight is not always an indication of good health. The reliance on fast, convenience foods that are high in fat, sugars, salt, various preservatives and additives have significantly impacted the nutritional value of food, and the health of Americans has suffered. 

“I want the community to know that we are here to help all generations ranging from children to elderly populations. Regardless of age, we can help get them on the road to better health, so they can live a longer, healthier lifestyle with fewer complications.” 

Support for diabetes and other endocrine disorders

Individuals diagnosed with all forms of diabetes are eligible for the program. Additionally, patients diagnosed with prediabetes and any other nutrition related diagnosis will qualify for medical nutrition therapy, which is a nutrition-based treatment provided by a registered dietitian. 

To participate in the program, a referral by the patient's primary care physician or specialist is required. 

Uninsured, underinsured or those unable to afford the program are encouraged to apply for financial assistance through Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation. The funds will assist with coverage for their appointments.

To learn more about the Ascension St. Mary’s Diabetes Education Center, please call 989-907-7530