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DIABETES IS THE leading cause of adult blindness and serious vision impairment in the US In most cases, retinal health issues have the potential to be treated and improved through supplementation and addressing lifestyle. For this to happen, the public needs to be educated about diabetes. One ECP who has taken up this challenge is Dr. Ansel T. Johnson, owner of Vision Salon Eye Care Associates in Blue Island, IL.

THE IDEA

According to Johnson, whether they realize it or not, close to 50% of the population are either living with diabetes or are borderline. Knowing this, he’s not content to limit his diabetes eyecare to the detection of retinal issues and sending patients off for injections. It’s also a personal issue for Johnson: “I myself have walked the path of being borderline diabetic and then Type 2 diabetic because I didn’t take it seriously. It touches most families in some way in communities of color and I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, above doing diabetic eye exams.”

As an OD specializing in diabetic eyecare, Johnson has been a member of the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES) for over 20 years. It was from them that he learned that 56% of patients diagnosed with diabetes have not seen a diabetes educator. Eager to help put things right, he decided to take matters into his own hands. “I wanted to make a bigger difference in patients’ lives.”

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THE EXECUTION

Johnson devised a patented education program titled “KNOC Out Diabetes.” (KNOC stands for Knowledge Nutrition Ocular Health and Coaching.) Nationally certified by ADCES, it is designed to help patients “live their best lives living with diabetes,” he says. “This helps give more wraparound care that complements the eyecare we give to patients living with diabetes.”

The program of diabetes self-management education involves one-on-one or group sessions with Vision Salon’s diabetes educator. Sessions last from one to two hours, with a course lasting up to 10. “We start with an assessment of the patient’s needs and goals and make a patient-centered plan. We make sure their primary care and/or endocrinologist treatment plans are supported and complemented,” says Johnson.

The program is a component of Vision Salon’s overall diabetic eyecare specialty, in which Johnson uses advanced diagnostic testing like OCT angiography, Full Field ERG and other technologies to detect not only problems but also early changes that can be stabilized or even reversed. The practice also offers supplements and conducts healthy shopping tours at a local grocery store, not to mention line dancing classes, chair exercise sessions and healthy cooking classes to make lifestyle changes fun and achievable.

Vision Salon is also involved in outreaches and partnerships with local not-for-profits in battling healthcare disparities in communities of color. According to Johnson, these disparities are found not only in diabetes treatment, but also in many other areas including home health for seniors, hypertension, low vision, organ donations and access to practitioners.

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THE REWARDS

For Johnson, the chief reward of getting involved in educating the public about diabetes is simple: “Making life-changing differences in our patients,” who, he says, go from “spiraling out of control to huge improvements in quality of life.” He adds, “Most of our participants are success stories.”

Are we doing enough as a society to educate people about diabetes? No, says Johnson, because the numbers are worsening. But to him, that just brings ECPs’ responsibility into sharper focus: “Optometry is in a prime position to make a difference.”

DIY: Boost your diabetes education and offerings

  • SIGN UP. Join the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists.
  • HIT THE BOOKS. Take courses from ADCES.
  • GET THE GEAR. Invest in technology for managing patients with diabetes.
  • STUDY UP. Learn about nutrient supplementation and diabetes.
  • GO TO THE SOURCE. Hire ‘KNOC Out Diabetes’ practice consultants to guide program development for your office.

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