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Q&A: Amy Campbell and Joslin's Outreach

Monday, December 05, 2011

Amy Campbell MS, RD, LDN, CDE, is a nutritionist at Joslin Diabetes Center and part of the Healthcare Services team that works on outreach projects that enable the Center to reach beyond our clinic to provide support for people with diabetes and those who care for them. 

Amy has written books, blogs, and magazine articles about diabetes nutrition, and was recently a panelist expert for US News and World Report’s review of “Best Diets for Healthy Eating.” Her many outreach efforts promote diabetes education and informed self-care. Here she answers questions about her outreach work, and what Joslin has planned for the future.

So, you do a blog [for “Diabetes Self-Management”], books, you’ve recently done the US News and World Report panel…

Yeah, I was one of 22 experts to review and critique various popular diets. The US News team compiled [the list], and as experts we were asked to rank the diets based on a number of different factors. The DASH diet won the number one ranking for a number of different reasons.

What other sorts of outreach efforts are happening at Joslin?

What we’re working on right now is Joslin’s Healthy Plate. It will be an interactive component on our website similar to the Asian Wok, but we’re going to have a more American style plate, where people can click and drag commonly eaten foods. We’ve recently revised our Joslin plate to somewhat mirror the new “USDA My Plate” that just came out. It’s a little changed to help people with diabetes with carb choices and things like that.

We also do a lot of training programs. One of my colleagues recently did one for Walgreens pharmacists; unfortunately not everyone with diabetes gets to see a diabetes educator or come to Joslin, or even a Joslin affiliate. So by training pharmacists or medical assistants or other healthcare professionals, we’re helping them to teach people with diabetes how to better manage their condition.

[In another project], we teamed up with SUPERVALU, which is a supermarket company (they have stores like Shaws, Star Market, and Albertsons), and we worked with their marketing team  and their corporate dietitians on a shelf tag nutrition program. Our work with them wasn’t specifically diabetes-focused, but we do more than diabetes here at Joslin. We treat obesity and cardiometabolic disease, and we want to also help people prevent diabetes. [The program] is called  “nutrition IQ.” There are little green tags on the shelves that highlight, only for healthy foods, one or two nutritional attributes like “low sodium,” “whole grain,” “high fiber,”—there’s signage in the produce section, too—and it’s really gotten a lot of great feedback from consumers. Everyone has to buy food, so [we want] to use the grocery store as a classroom to help people eat better for themselves and for their families.

When you’re working on projects or doing outreach, what are some of the most common misconceptions you come across about eating with diabetes?

It’s still the same thing that I’ve been trying to teach people for years, that there isn’t a diabetic diet. I mean, your diabetic diet is what’s good for you, and it might be different for the next person. There’s no one diet for people with diabetes. It could be the DASH diet. It could be the Mediterranean diet. It could even be the Atkins diet, to be honest. The other [misconception] is still “you can’t eat sugar, you have to eat all these sugar free foods.” I usually have to correct people and say, “No, [you] can eat sugar, just in moderation.”

Nutrition is a big thing for people, and they get tense about it when they find out they have diabetes. They often think “oh no, the diet is going to be really horrible, I’m going to starve,” or “I’m going to have to eat horrible diabetic foods.” I always try and tell people that’s not the case. You can eat healthy foods, and in many cases I think people, once they’re on a Mediterranean-type diet or DASH diet, they feel better, their diabetes gets better. So we try to take the fear factor out of it for people.

So, why do you feel that outreach is important?

Diabetes is so prevalent now. The numbers are going to double in the not-so-distant future, there are so many people at risk for diabetes, and probably most of those people don’t have an opportunity to come [to Joslin]. We love seeing people in one-on-one situations, or in classes, but for those people who are living in rural New Mexico who can’t travel 50 miles or 100 miles to come to a center—I think we have to be creative in how we reach people.

So what is the most effective outreach method that you’ve seen?

I actually think group sessions, whether it’s a group class or a support group or even group medical visits. When you bring people together not only are they hearing an expert talk about nutrition,or other diabetes-related topics, they are also sharing with everybody else. Because diabetes can, for some people, feel really isolating. They may not have anybody else to talk to. So they get to come here, or they get to go to a group somewhere in their community, and say “Oh, you’re on metformin? What’s that like for you?” or “You’re carb counting? How are you doing with label reading?” I think that sharing, that bonding with other people is so important.

Page last updated: June 22, 2018