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FirstHealth Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center named Diabetes Association Provider of the Year, receives Reynolds grant

| Date Posted: 8/3/2011

Melissa Herman

Melissa Herman

PINEHURST – FirstHealth’s Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center has received a 2011 Provider of the Year Award from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Recently named an accredited education program by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, the FirstHealth program has also received a grant for enhanced diabetes education from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

Sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, the Provider of the Year Award goes to ADA-recognized programs that exceed national standards for providing patient care through excellence in caring for individuals with diabetes. Also recognized were the Boice-Willis Clinic Diabetes Self-Management Education Program, Duke Raleigh Hospital Diabetes Care, the Diabetes Community Center of Robeson County, the Wilkes County Diabetes Self-Management Program and the Pitt County Health Department.

The awards were presented June 11 at the American Diabetes Association’s Eighth Annual Gala at the Renaissance North Hills Hotel in Raleigh. FirstHealth’s award was accepted by Melissa Herman, a certified diabetes educator and manager of the Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center. The program is known for diabetes education that routinely exceeds national accreditation standards.

“We really look at the data,” says Herman. “We know the communities we serve have a percentage of diabetes that is twice that of the state average and that 40 to 50 percent of those individuals fall 200 percent or more below poverty level. We work with high-risk individuals as well as with people with diagnosed diabetes who don’t have the ability to pay.”

FirstHealth teams with area primary care practices to combine diabetes education with routine office visits for uninsured and underserved diabetes patients, and has partnered with Community Care Network of the Sandhills to work toward improved patient outcomes.

In addition, the FirstHealth Cares program helps patients needing assistance with prescription medications for chronic medical conditions (including diabetes) while programs such as FirstQuit, The Happy Kitchen and PLAY provide information and assistance about tobacco-cessation, healthy eating and physical activity.

“We really look for communities with high-risk populations and try to find ways to help them,” Herman says.

The two-year $256,669 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust will allow FirstHealth to improve its diabetes programming by providing coaching and an enhanced referral process for low-income diabetic patients in Montgomery, Richmond and Hoke counties who have been screened as at-risk for depression.

According to Chris Miller, interim director of FirstHealth Community Health Services, national research indicates that about 50 percent of diabetic patients have a behavioral health issue of some type – often depression that is related to the management of their chronic condition. A portion of the Reynolds grant will also allow a member of the Community Health Services staff to coordinate chronic disease management classes through Community Care Network of the Sandhills.

The grant will also support the development of a diabetes education program that is presented by way of telemedicine. The program will be conducted by a member of the Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center staff and offered to patients at the FirstHealth Family Care Center-Raeford.

“It is critical for diabetes education to be available outside of the hospital and in the community,” Miller says. “This grant program allows us to focus on the underserved in our region and give them better access to health information. We want to empower these patients to better manage their care.”

Diabetes education is provided by specially trained diabetes educators. The FirstHealth program helps people with or at-risk for diabetes gain the knowledge and skills needed to modify their behavior and successfully self-manage their disease and its related conditions.

For more information on FirstHealth Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center, call (800) 364-0499 or visit

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