Diabetes Garage Puts Men on Track to Manage Disease
Last Updated on August 06, 2018 at 12:00 AM
Originally published August 06, 2018
By Laura L. Acosta
Looking after your health is like doing routine maintenance on your car. If you do not change the oil in your vehicle or you skip doctor’s appointments, your car and your body will begin to break down.
That is the point that Jeannie Belinda Concha, Ph.D., a public health educator, made when she asked men such as her brothers why they checked the oil in their cars every three months, but would not to go to the doctor for a routine physical exam.
“If you don’t put oil in your car, your car will break down,” Concha said. “’So what about your body?’ And I remember seeing the lightbulb go off. It was like, “Ding!’”
Today the El Paso native is applying that same concept to help men with diabetes in the community manage their disease.
Concha, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso, has collaborated with the El Paso Diabetes Association (EPDA) to open The Diabetes Garage, a space where men with diabetes can participate in an innovative diabetes management program by the same name.
“Dr. Concha’s work serves as a wonderful model for community-engaged translational research,” said College of Health Sciences Dean Shafik Dharamsi, Ph.D. “This approach helps to improve people’s health by bridging the know-do gap. Research is of greatest value when it responds to real-world needs!”
Concha developed the program in collaboration with the EPDA, Southwest University, University Medical Center and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
Designed to look like an automotive repair shop, The Diabetes Garage at the EPDA offers diabetes education and support sessions for men to learn how to manage their glucose and prevent diabetes-related complications, such as limb amputations, impotence, blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.
“There are many diabetes programs but often they are geared toward women and children,” Concha said. “The Diabetes Garage was created to provide men a space where they can talk about their diabetes with other men and ask questions about managing their health.”
The program uses automotive maintenance and repair analogies, like “check your car gauges,” to encourage men with diabetes to monitor their blood glucose.
Hispanic men are at a greater risk of developing diabetes and suffering multiple and severe complications. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health report that men of Mexican descent are 150 percent more likely to have diabetes compared with non-Hispanic white individuals. Hispanic men also are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes or chronic liver disease.
“That’s why EPDA is excited to be a partner with The Diabetes Garage project, and we hope to see it expand into other communities in the future,” said Sandra Gonzalez, the EPDA executive director. “Our mission is to improve the quality of life of individuals with diabetes and their families through education and support.”
Southwest University automotive instructors collaborated with Credentialed Diabetes Nurse Educators (CDNE) in the community to generate different car metaphors to make managing the disease understandable to men.
For example, they compare stress to running a car’s engine at full throttle. Driving at high speed puts stress on the whole car, causing wear and tear on the engine. In a person, too much stress can cause blood sugars to go up. Stress hormones may stay turned on for a very long time, which can lead to long-term high blood-glucose levels.
Daniel Montes, co-director of the Diesel and Automotive Program at Southwest University, said preventive maintenance is the key for men to keep their cars up to speed and their bodies healthy.
“That’s what we’re really about,” said Montes, a Diabetes Garage instructor. “The preventive maintenance aspect. Getting to the doctor early. Knowing what your symptoms are and being able to have a proactive approach in managing your diabetes.”
Soon after joining UTEP in 2017, Concha reached out to the EPDA about starting the program. Although The Diabetes Garage officially opened on Aug. 2, men have been participating in the program since May 2018.
Men meet for one-and-a-half hours each of four Saturdays. Participants receive $20, a $10 gas card, a Diabetes Maintenance Manual and Diabetes Essentials Toolbox with a glucose and blood pressure monitor.
“This program is to account for the fact that most men don’t like going to the doctor’s office,” Concha said. “Men are more likely to delay seeking medical care until diabetes has become a serious problem and they are have experienced complications.”
Terry Sanchez, a registered nurse for 33 years, has been doing diabetes education for eight years. She said The Diabetes Garage encourages men to get help with managing their diabetes on their own without being pushed into it by their wives, sisters or daughters.
During the sessions, Sanchez, an instructor with The Diabetes Garage, talks to men about meals and meal planning and clears up misinformation about the disease.
“Education is just so important,” said Sanchez, a CDNE for three years. “There’s so much misinformation about diabetes, about eating, and what to do to keep your sugars where they need to be. The big thing is just being able to educate people as to how they can do it.”
For more information about the Diabetes Garage, click here.