Lake County program helps diabetes patients manage disease

  • Be-Well Lake County helps diabetes patients learn to manage their disease, such as how to monitor blood sugar levels.

    Be-Well Lake County helps diabetes patients learn to manage their disease, such as how to monitor blood sugar levels. File photo

  • Petra Narvaez, right, with her Be Well provider Dr. Elizabeth Nodine, who manages her overall diabetes care.

    Petra Narvaez, right, with her Be Well provider Dr. Elizabeth Nodine, who manages her overall diabetes care. Courtesy of Be Well-Lake County

  • Petra Narvaez

    Petra Narvaez Courtesy of Be Well-Lake County

Updated 11/9/2015 6:23 AM

One of the trickiest parts of managing diabetes and pre-diabetes is figuring out what you should be eating.

That's part of the reason the American Diabetes Association has chosen "Eat Well, America" as the theme for American Diabetes Month this year.


Chances are you know someone with diabetes or pre-diabetes -- nearly 30 million Americans live with diabetes, while another 86 million have pre-diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. If current rates continue unchecked, it is estimated that one in three people will suffer from diabetes by 2050.

In Lake County, 7.3 percent of the county's 700,000 residents are battling diabetes, according to Be-Well Lake County. Be-Well is a joint effort by the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center and NorthShore University HealthSystem to provide diabetes treatment, education and support resources to medically underserved patients.

This local effort has helped people like Petra Narvaez, 64, of North Chicago to manage their diabetes.

"I was sick and hospitalized for a week because my blood sugars were so high. I couldn't believe it -- I felt overwhelmed, especially with the amounts of medication I had to start taking," Narvaez said.

Narvaez was losing her eyesight to cataracts, related to complications from her diabetes.

"I didn't know if I was going to be able to see again," she says.

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After working with Be Well staff to better manage her blood sugar levels, Narvaez was given a second chance. She underwent surgery at NorthShore and regained her eyesight. "It has changed my life for the best. It was extremely difficult for me to accept the fact that I had lost my eyesight due to cataracts and other complications. I received the care I needed, and for this, I am most grateful."

Narvaez is not alone in struggling to manage her diabetes -- and proper diabetes management is critical, since complications can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and blindness.

But, if caught early, and managed properly, severe complications, such as loss of eyesight, can often be avoided.

"As a retina specialist, I have seen several patients on the verge of losing vision due to diabetic eye disease, and with prompt approval for treatment and state-of-the-art care, we have stabilized their vision and provided long-term benefits to their vision," said Dr. Manvi P. Maker, NorthShore University HealthSystem, who works with Be Well patients.

"This allows them to continue to work and empowers them to take better control of their health," she added.

Narvaez now takes full advantage of support offered through the Be Well program, such as meeting with her dietitian to improve her eating and dietary choices, and continuing her retinal screenings to monitor any changes in her vision.


Be Well-Lake County provides diabetes treatment, education, and support resources to more than 850 medically underserved patients in Lake County. To be in the Be Well Program, patients must have Type 2 diabetes, have a Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center primary care provider, and be referred to Be Well by that provider.

"Through Be Well-Lake County services, participants' lives are no longer controlled by diabetes. Rather, they become empowered to take control of the disease through effective medical care and healthy lifestyle change." said Julie Krohn, the program's nutrition services assistant coordinator.

"The program is designed to provide dedicated, multidisciplinary care that allows patients to better understand their disease process. This focus leads to successful self-management, and better disease outcomes," she added.

Services provided include assistance with medication and testing supplies; specialty care access for cardiology, ophthalmology, endocrinology, podiatry and nephrology; on-site Hemoglobin A1C testing; personal trainer program; fitness center membership; diabetes self-management education classes and support group; and nutrition education by registered dietitians.

A study conducted by Be Well-Lake County practitioners shows that 59 percent of the patients surveyed have "food insecurity," which the World Health Organization defines as lacking physical and/or economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. The patients who were classified with food insecurity also had significantly higher blood glucose levels.

To help promote better eating habits, Be Well-Lake County created a community garden to provide more nutrient-dense foods to participants.

The American Diabetes Association also is promoting healthy eating options throughout the month on its website. Visit or call (800) DIABETES for meal planning, shopping tips, grocery lists, chef's preparation secrets, delicious recipes and more.

And look in the Daily Herald's food section this Wednesday, Nov. 11, for healthy recipe ideas.

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