Access to quality accredited/recognized Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) services in Kentucky is challenging. Kentucky has made significant strides in improving access. Still, these programs are not offered in 31 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Even in areas where services do exist, the frequency of offerings is often limited and Kentucky’s rural geography also impacts participation.
The American Association of Diabetes Educators’ (AADE) “Reaching Out for Better Health” grant is supporting the use of telehealth technology to expand access to DSMES in an undeserved area in southeastern Kentucky. Specifically, the Lake Cumberland District Health Department (LCDHD), an accredited DSMES provider under Kentucky’s unique program model, Healthy Living with Diabetes (HLWD), will expand telehealth services to reach outside of their defined geographic region to an additional location that has no access to these services, a small rural county in southeastern KY. This small rural county, located 120 miles to the southeast of LCDHD, has a population of less than 30,000 and has the designation of “distressed” by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The addition of telehealth will allow the LCDHD to increase their reach and the number of DSMES series offered in their own 10 county region. It will also as well as, provide access to DSMES services in an additional undeserved area, outside of LCDHD, that currently has no access to DSMES services.
It is anticipated that the lessons learned (technology issues, administrative process, changes in teaching methods, and recruitment strategies) from this work will be shared across additional HLWD branches across the state to create additional telehealth programming. In addition, we hope to mentor potential diabetes educators in this small rural county in southeastern KY and other areas so that they may be able to become DSMES providers themselves.