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Key to the success of Star Supermarket & Pharmacy’s diabetes education program, which consists of weekly classes that have been held for the past seven years, is that the program coordinator, Juliana Draper, Star’s education and wellness director, has had Type 1 diabetes for the past 31 years.
“While we have several experts come it to educate the consumers on how to have a happy life with diabetes, there’s nothing like being able to share experiences with another diabetic,” said Darden Heritage, pharmacist and owner of the Huntsville, Ala.-based independent, which consists of three supermarkets with pharmacies, and three stand alone pharmacies -- one of which features an in-store clinic. Heritage spoke at this week’s Health & Wellness Conference at the All Things Organic Expo in Chicago.
According to Draper, the supermarket is the ideal location for such education to take place. “Every grocer has people with diabetes coming through its doors every day, as well as people who care for someone with diabetes, or people who know someone with diabetes,” she said. “It’s a disease that lasts a lifetime, and if a grocer can find a niche that accommodates these consumers’ lifestyle goals, they will have a lifetime loyal customer.”
The classes meet monthly for seven hours – broken up over two days -- and follow the guidelines for the American Diabetes Association. They cover topics such as What is Diabetes?, Monitoring, Healthy Eating, Medications, Coping, Diabetes Emergencies, Exercise, Sick Days, Goal Setting and Diabetes Complications, as well as new technologies available for the management of diabetes, including insulin pump therapy and continuous glucose sensors.
Included in the class is a tour of the store with one of the company’s dietitians discussing healthy eating habits such as carb-counting, label reading and serving sizes. “We take attendees out onto the floor, hitting all four corners of the store,” said Draper. “It gives us the opportunity to point out great products for people with diabetes, and suggestions on meals that can be prepared from these items.”
Following the tour, the attendees gather for a healthy lunch that features some of these products, providing a valuable opportunity for participants to share their own experiences. These lunches often result in informal support groups developing among participants, who often exchange contact information to stay in touch.
Not only do the participants leave armed with useful information, but also with a bag full of products, a 90-page diabetes manual, a glucose meter and, most importantly, a feeling of empowerment over their disease.
(A full profile of Star’s diabetes program will be featured in the August/September issue of Progressive Grocer Magazine)