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Tech professor leading research to educate new diabetes patients

It’s no secret that times have changed with increasingly advanced medical technology in recent years, and Louisiana Tech University is working to help ensure that diabetes patients are keeping up with the pace.

Dr. Heather McCollum, an assistant professor of family and child studies and Robbie Auger Watson Endowed Professor at Louisiana Tech, is currently working on an innovative diabetes research project to see how to best present information to new patients who have recently been diagnosed with the disease.

Dr. Heather McCollum

To conduct the nine-month study, which started in May, McCollum divided newly diagnosed diabetes patients into three separate groups that were presented with different ways to learn about their disease.

Participants were randomly divided into different treatment groups based on delivery of patient education and patient support modalities.

The first group received patient education and support only through a self-administered educational DVD developed by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The second group received face-to-face patient education and support with access to educational DVDs developed by the ADA and McCollum along with a workbook developed as part of McCollum’s project.  The third group is receiving online patient education and support with access to educational DVDs.

“That third group received wireless laptops with a portal to all of the information provided to the other two groups and use the computers to find their own online informational websites,” said McCollum. “We can track those websites through the computers and find out how those patients are receiving their information.” 

Patient education in all three modalities included introduction and instructions for implementation of a low-glycemic index diet as well as introduction and instructions for implementation of a physical fitness program.

McCollum’s study is using patients of The Health Hut — a mobile health clinic offering free health care to uninsured patients in Lincoln Parish.

“We’re trying to find out which means of providing information is the most effective in helping these patients with a self-management intervention program,” McCollum said. “We’ll keep track of how they get their information and what websites they might go to along with things like their weight and blood sugar levels.

“The study will show us something about the best way to provide this kind of information, but we don’t know what that will be yet.”

McCollum listed six goals her program is working to accomplish.

  • Goal 1: Determine the efficacy of DVD, face-to-face, and computer delivery on the participants’ knowledge of low-glycemic index and their ability to choose and consume a diet of low-glycemic foods.
  • Goal 2: Evaluate the effects of DVD, face-to-face and computer delivery on the participants’ ability to work out 150 minutes per week.
  • Goal 3: Examine the impact of DVD, face-to-face and computer delivery on weight, BMI and weight circumference of the participants who received intervention that targeted the adoption of a lower-glycemic index diet and increased physical activity.
  • Goal 4: Determine the effect of delivery modality (DVD, face-to-face and computer delivery) on diabetes knowledge, self-efficacy and attitude toward diabetes.
  • Goal 5: Identify barriers to dietary change, increased physical activity and integration of health knowledge based on delivery modality.
  • Goal 6:  Identify the characteristics of participants who are able to overcome barriers to healthy dietary changes and increased physical activity based on delivery modality.

“We don’t know what we’re going to find out, but hopefully what we do find out will help provide us with information about the best ways we can help newly-diagnosed patients get the information they need about diabetes,” McCollum said. “We’re excited and the patients are excited about the program.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what our final results are and how we can find ways to help patients gain knowledge to help control their diabetes.”

Written by T. Scott Boatright – boat@latech.edu