Hope for Diabetes Care: Communications, Connections Can Create Change

Oct 22, 2012

template-bannerimage-article Hope Warshaw copy

PROLOGUE: I met Hope briefly in person years ago at an annual conference for the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).  Any RDs who are involved with diabetes should be very familiar with her and her impressive work in the field.  I was thrilled at the opportunity to interview her and even more impressed with her work after learning more about all the great things she’s doing in the name of diabetes.
MELISSA:
Hope, how did you become interested in a career in nutrition?
HOPE:
You’ve got to realize, I go back a long, long way! I was brought up in the 1950s/60s in a home where healthy food and meals, cooking and being in the kitchen were valued. So, becoming a dietitian seemed a natural fit. That decision brought me to the University of Vermont and then to Emory University in Atlanta for graduate school.

MELISSA:
And how did you end up in the specialty of diabetes?
HOPE:
Perhaps happenstance or kismet. My first job was at Grady Hospital’s Diabetes Center, run by an innovative physician who believed that food and healthy eating should be at the center of managing type 2 diabetes. I learned quickly that specializing in diabetes was a great fit for a dietitian. I’ve never looked back. And oh my, the evolution I’ve witnessed in diabetes management and the care tools (devices, medications and more) is simply mindboggling! Think back nearly 35 years. Diabetes was hardly on people’s radar screen. Fast forward to today. The numbers in the U.S. and even more so around the world are simply mind blowing and increasing at a staggeringly scary rate!

It troubles me greatly that diabetes or the risk of developing diabetes continues to be considered ho-hum by people, health care providers and many (not all) of our politicians. Diabetes is “costing” great human toll, both in morbidity and mortality as well as in our health care dollars. We’re talking billions! Yes, you could say I’ve grown increasingly passionate about raising and waving the red flag and am saddened that diabetes is such a growth industry today.

MELISSA:
I couldn’t agree more.  Tell me a little bit about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
HOPE:
Great question! Nothing makes my day more than when a client, reader of one of my books or colleague says something like, “I just love your realistic, down-to-earth and practical suggestions for healthy eating.” That’s whether I’m talking about managing type 1 or type 2 diabetes or offering advice for more healthful choices at restaurants. I describe myself in this profile: http://www.hopewarshaw.com/about_hope

MELISSA:
You have written so many books, also have a blog, and have been in the media for 20 years.  Let’s talk about your books first.
HOPE:
I’ve been writing books since 1988 when my first publisher came to me and asked if I wanted to write a book about healthy restaurant eating. She had seen my Eat Out columns in Diabetes Self-Management magazine and, due in part to her personal needs, thought a book on the topic was needed. Yes, that was one of my all-time favorite voicemail messages! This book, originally titled The Restaurant Companion, is now titled Eat Out, Eat Right.

In the early 1990s the American Diabetes Association (ADA) began building their library of books. My first book with ADA was Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy, now in its 4th edition. It’s a book, that if I only had the riches, I would LOVE to put in the hands of all 79 million people with prediabetes and 18 million with type 2 in the U.S. I’ve since written and revised several books for ADA including Complete Guide to Carb Counting, Guide to Healthy Restaurant Eating, and others. To put the muscle of social media into action to boost book sales (hopefully!) ADA just launched author pages. I was the guinea pig.

MELISSA:
Thanks for letting us know about this new feature – I was not aware of it!  Tell me about some of your media work and what you’ve seen change over the years.
HOPE:
I’ve been leveraging my diabetes and nutrition expertise and credibility as a book author with the media for a couple of decades. And boy, have things changed. It used to be that the only outlets were radio, print and TV. Today, while these media venues still exist, social media has added many more.  I’ve had a ton of fun, interesting, rewarding and, yes, many crazy experiences. I’ve navigated the waters with plenty of radio personalities who are on the silly side and really don’t want to talk about anything as serious as diabetes, healthier food products or healthy restaurant eating. I taped an episode of Good Morning America with Joan Lunden two days before the Gulf War broke out. Needless to say, that GMA episode wasn’t aired, but I got another chance. This one was live and we were sitting down rather than standing up as we were in the first interview – me at 4’10” standing on a crate and Joan Lunden not on the crate with her shoes off…ah, the magic of TV.

MELISSA:
Hope, you are so articulate and so charming in your TV interviews!  At 5’8” I’m always the “amazon” next to the host – even when the  host stands on the crate!
Tell me about your print interviews and writing.
HOPE:
Recently I’m delighted to say I was quoted in an article in Ladies Home Journal about prediabetes. It warmed my heart to see a mainstream publication raise the warning flag for prediabetes.

As a freelance writer I’m often on the other side of the microphone, phone, or keyboard, asking the questions and quoting colleagues and consumers. It’s very important to me that I get the science and advice right and people’s stories straight.

MELISSA:
I can relate to that!  Since I started this blog, I’m so enjoying interviewing RDs and hearing interesting and inspiring stories such as yours!  Let’s talk about the great stuff you’re doing with social media.
HOPE:
As you well know social media has taken the world by storm. By nature I wouldn’t describe myself as a natural techie, but I quickly realized a couple of years ago that it was time to jump on the social media bandwagon. I already had had a website, in another iteration of my current site, but after attending a few social media programs and getting some one on one assistance from an able younger colleague I realized it was time to jump into twitter (follow me @HopeWarshaw), create a facebook page and make them all “feed” each other. To do this I worked with a social media consultant and website designer. Now keeping this all up is a challenge! While feeding the social media beast is time consuming, it’s truly been fun! I’ve really enjoyed connecting with RD colleagues (several who you’ve featured), then meeting them in person, getting hot off the press studies, reports and so much more.

In jumping into the social media milieu I quickly realized there was a growing Diabetes Online Community (DOC) most of whom are people with diabetes or their loved ones. Back in 2010 I took it upon myself to use social media to connect with a few of the key DOC leaders (David Edelman, Manny Hernandez, and Amy Tenderich because I thought it was important for diabetes educators to know what was going on online for themselves and their clients. I broached this trio with the idea of submitting a program to American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) 2011 meeting. They were more than game…they very much wanted to interact with educators and foster this relationship. We presented a program: DOC: What the Heck is Going On? It was very successful…educators very much valued the content.

Hope interviews David, Amy and Manny:

MELISSA: 
I was there and loved it!  I also attended the session at AADE 2012 where the conversation continued….
HOPE:
Yes, our foursome offered a session at the AADE 2012 meeting at which we presented Power Your Practice in Our Socially Networked World (link to the slide deck here). I’m excited that we are starting to see more dialogue between members of the DOC and diabetes educators and other HCPs.  Many of the DOC members are part of a fabulous group called Diabetes Advocates (of which I’m a proud member) and have their own blogs, vlogs, websites, non-profit orgs and much more.

Suffice to say I have been utterly overwhelmed at how welcomed and embraced I’ve been by this group of people. I’ve now met many of them in person at various diabetes meetings. And due to social media it’s not a handshake when you meet in person, it’s a hug! I’m SO respectful of the doors they are opening and bridges they are building as well as their technology skills and creativity. To encourage my diabetes educator colleagues, other RDs and HCPs, to encourage their clients with diabetes and their loved ones to open the door to the DOC I developed a resource people can find on my website. It’s available as a printable pdf or as a web-based version with clickable links. Please use it and connect HCPs and people with diabetes to the DOC!!

MELISSA:
Thank you for clueing us in to all these fabulous resources and conversations!  What else do you want RDs to know about the DOC?  How can RDs get involved and/or support the DOC?
HOPE:
One among many reasons I feel it is so important for HCPs to encourage people with diabetes and their loved ones to engage in the DOC is that an increasing amount of research is showing that having diabetes is stressful and causes distress. This was a strong theme at the American Diabetes Association meeting this year. I wrote about the importance of social support in my monthly PRESENTdiabetes.com e-zine. I believe, and I have heard and witnessed, that for people with diabetes just having the opportunity to engage with and be supported by people who are walking in their shoes is POWERFUL. It has changed lives and changed people’s attitudes about caring for their diabetes and no surprise, this can change clinical outcomes. I encourage my colleagues to engage with the DOC members but don’t preach or tell people how to manage their disease. Meet them on a human to human level, support their efforts and help them build their community…and chuckle with them about real life.

MELISSA:
Great advice.  So, what comes naturally for you and what do you have to work harder at when it comes to nutrition communications?
HOPE:
Another great question! When I talk to young dietetic students I always recount that if someone told me when I was a student or even in the early years of my career that I would love to write, speak in front of hundreds of people or be in front of a TV camera, I would have said you were nuts out of your mind. But now I do. Did that come naturally or did I, through many experiences and taking many risks, develop those skills? I think the later. So with that I say to students, don’t ever say never and be open to varied opportunities. I’ve learned that things happen serendipitously and they happen when you open doors. Ah, yes we haven’t even talked about the many hours and years I’ve spent volunteering with a number of diabetes and nutrition organizations, from Diabetes Care and Education Dietetic Practice Group to AADE. But all these hours have led to valuable experiences and warm relationships with amazingly talented, smart peers. I don’t believe I started out being a natural networker, but now I am. I totally enjoy connecting people and creating win/win opportunities. I guess that’s paying it forward.

MELISSA:
Such wonderful advice, not just for students, but for all RDs!  You certainly are busy and we are so lucky to have you on the front lines for such an important issue as diabetes.  Thank you for all that you do and thank you for sharing your work with us here.  Getting to know you better has inspired me and I know it will inspire other RDs, too!

EPILOGUE:
Please check out Hope’s website and blog, “like” her facebook page, and follow her on Twitter @HopeWarshaw.  Share all these great resources with your patients and clients, and consider getting involved with the DOC.  I know that these communications and connections can create change!  Please leave your comments and questions for me or Hope below – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Did you enjoy this interview?  Click here to read more!

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