Horizon Health Diabetes Program Celebrates 30 Years

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Horizon Health Diabetes Program Celebrates 30 Years

As nurse manager of Horizon Health’s intensive care unit 30 years ago, Debbie Griffin saw an urgent need to educate patients about their diabetes.

Among the concerns were ketoacidosis, a life-threating complication of diabetes in which the body cannot produce enough insulin, causing acid buildup in the bloodstream.

“I realized patients needed education and help,” she said. “A lot of them didn’t understand the disease or the medications. Then my son developed type 1 diabetes at 16 months old and I knew something had to be done locally.”

As a result, Debbie created the Horizon Health Diabetes Education Program. The program achieved a major milestone in 1994, receiving official recognition from the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Thirty years later, the Horizon Health program continues to be ADA-recognized, with its most recent renewal continuing through June 18, 2028.

Being ADA-recognized means Horizon Health provides the framework for the effective delivery of quality diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) through the National Standards of DSMES. Topics covered in DSMES sessions include healthy eating, exercise, medication and monitoring, prevention, detection and treatment of complications, as well as coping mechanisms and support.

Having an ADA-recognized program is unique for a small, rural hospital. Of the 59 member hospitals within the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN), which includes Horizon Health, fewer than 20 percent have an ADA-recognized program.

“It’s exciting for a small community. We’ve come a long way,” Debbie said.

When the program began, the late Dr. Leland Phipps, family medicine physician, was its medical director and “biggest champion,” Debbie added.

Debbie Griffin joined Horizon Health in 1984 and became a family nurse practitioner in 2011. In addition to the Diabetes Education Program, she created the Horizon Health Occupational Health program. She continues to maintain her credential as a certified diabetes care and education specialist and is a member of the Edgar County Diabetes Association.

Diabetes Education Today

Leighsa Cornwell, registered nurse and certified diabetes care and education specialist, leads the Horizon Health Diabetes Education Program. Over the years, she has expanded the program to include more community outreach, including annual glucose testing at Paris High School. She keeps healthcare providers apprised of changing ADA standards and maintains Horizon Health’s certification.

Leighsa also organizes the annual Andy Hogan Memorial Golf Outing in collaboration with the Edgar County Diabetes Association. Now in its 20th year, the event benefits residents who face financial difficulties associated with diabetes.

A1c Reduction

Horizon Health’s Diabetes Education Program has proven to be successful. In 2023, one patient experienced an A1c reduction from 16.9 percent to 6.3 percent in only four months. A1c measures average blood sugar levels over the previous three months.

“Seeing patients be successful is one of my favorite parts of the job,” Leighsa said. “The goal is to catch prediabetes early and prevent it from progressing into type 2 diabetes. If a patient has already been diagnosed with diabetes, helping them control their A1c and creating lifestyle changes that last for years is also rewarding.”

The Diabetes Education Program is part of Horizon Health’s comprehensive diabetes services, which include endocrinology, podiatry, wound care, and nutritional counseling.