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Diabetes educator brings knowledge to China

New Britain [November 22 2010] - Karen McAvoy agreed to the trip before considering the extent of what she was about to do.

A registered nurse, clinical nurse specialist and certified diabetes educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, she had been asked to travel to China in October to do a presentation on diabetes education.

“I’ve never even been out of the U.S. before, so this was way out of my comfort zone,” she said. “But I said, ‘I’m not doing anything that weekend.’”

On Oct. 15 McAvoy presented to about 200 Chinese nurses from three different provinces at the fourth Yangtze River Delta Area Diabetes Education Conference in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China. Her presentation was two hours, partly because everything McAvoy said had to be translated. Her PowerPoint slides were also translated.

While the travel was outside her comfort zone, the presentation topic was not. McAvoy has been education coordinator for 14 years at the hospital’s Joslin Affiliate. She was asked to participate in the Chinese conference by a fellow educator at the national Joslin Diabetes Center headquarters in Boston.

McAvoy learned about some differences between diabetes education in the U.S. and China. One conference organizer told her that in China, people think diabetes education is merely giving information – the organizer likened it to “filling the pail.”

At Joslin, educators also assess patients’ needs, develop a plan to meet those needs and help patients set goals. Patients are very involved in their education and care -- the aim is to give them self-management skills and knowledge to achieve and maintain blood glucose control, initiate lifestyle changes, and promote continued wellness.

Nurses at the Chinese conference seemed eager to add these elements to their education approach, McAvoy said.

“I was impressed because they asked questions for about 30 minutes after my presentation,” she said. “That told me there was a lot of interest in the topic.”

There is also a lot of need for diabetes education in China. Results of a 2007-2008 study released in March showed the prevalence of diabetes among Chinese people 20 and older at around 9.7 percent—twice as high as previous reports and close to the U.S.’ 10.7 percent. Study results, published in the March 25 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, estimated that 92 million Chinese adults ages 20 and older have diabetes, and 60 percent of those are still undiagnosed. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 23.6 million Americans have the disease, including 5.7 million undiagnosed.

McAvoy said she was pleased to share information and ideas with people on the other side of the world who are also working to change those statistics for the better.

“It was exciting,” she said. “What a great opportunity to interact with other nurses, other diabetes educators, and share what we’ve learned.”

For more information about diabetes education and care at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, visit, or call -888-4 JOSLIN (1-888-456-7546).

Contact: Nancy Martin, 860-224-5900, ext. 4366

HCC Corporate Communications
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