Diabetes knowledge has little effect on improving outcomes

DURHAM, N.C. A new study by Duke Clinical Research Institute researchers finds little relationship between what a diabetic patient knows about the disease and control of its associated cardiovascular risk factors or how well the patient ultimately fares.

The researchers said their analysis indicates that for diabetics, improved disease knowledge alone does not translate into improved blood sugar control, cholesterol levels, weight management or mortality rates. While education may be important, the researchers said that there are likely other health care delivery issues that must be addressed to reduce the risks of diabetic patients dying of heart disease, the main cause of death for diabetic patients.

The results of the Duke analysis were published in the June edition of the American Journal of Cardiology. The study was supported by the American Diabetes Association and the Four Schools Physician-Scientist Training Program, Philadelphia.

"We have long assumed that if we educate patients and make them an active partner in the treatment of their disease, we should be able to dramatically improve their ability to take care of their disease," said Carlos Sanchez, M.D., first author of the paper. Sanchez performed the analysis while a medical student at Duke; he currently is a medical resident at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, Portland. "However, in our study, we found no relationship between patients' knowledge of their disease and improvements in the indicators for cardiovascular risk factors.

"We spend so many resources on patient education with the assumption that it will make a difference, but what we seem to be finding is that while education may be a part of the puzzle, it is not adequate by itself," Sanchez continued. "Maybe we should step back and take a closer look at how we are spending our resources. One area that could be improved is better implementation of guidelines for increasing the use of medication

Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center

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