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By Jeff Green

While many seniors living with diabetes express an interest in changing their diets to improve their health, most don’t know where to start.

Drs. Caroline Porr and Lan Gien from the School of Nursing and their team want to change that.

Managing diabetes

They’re working on a research project that aims to clarify dietary information and make it more accessible to seniors attempting to better manage their diabetes in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Considering the province has one of the highest rates of diabetes in Canada, it’s critically important we promote self-management.” –Dr. Caroline Porr

Research shows that seniors have a hard time changing their diet because the educational materials they receive don’t relate well to their traditional foods. Some of the Newfoundland and Labrador dishes seniors have enjoyed throughout their lives are precluded or should be consumed in moderation. Foods that are approved for everyday consumption tend to be too expensive or inaccessible for most seniors living in the province.

Focusing on practical advice

The team held a research focus group in Conception Bay North to find out what types of information seniors thought they needed to better manage their diabetes. Most notably they wanted to know what kind of foods they should eat and if the recommended foods could be bought at the local grocery.

Drs. Porr and Gien and the team then explored with seniors how information could best be communicated. Most seniors rely heavily on advice from friends and family for information, whether out of trust or due to literacy barriers.

Seniors liked the idea of sharing expert information with one another. As a result, the team is working with the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning to provide tailored dietary advice to rural diabetic seniors through a series of easy-to-access videos.

Collaborative approach

These videos and lesson plans will offer clear and relatable advice from other seniors, dietitians and the Canadian Diabetes Association. The team is also collaborating with the Seniors Resource Centre, folklorists and even a linguistics expert to ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador’s dialect and culture are captured and represented accurately.

Bridging the gap for seniors between diets and dialects, diabetes self-management and accurate information, and healthy foods and traditional dishes won’t be easy, but it’s a feat this team hopes will become a little less challenging thanks in part to their research project.

Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research
School of Nursing

Team investigators:
Renee Crossman, Doreen Dawe, Dr. Karen Parsons, School of Nursing
Drs. Jill Alison, Catherine Donovan, Barbara Roebothan, Yanqing Yi, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Stephanie Young, School of Pharmacy

Special thanks:
Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning
Bay Roberts 50+ Club
Mallard Cottage

This article is part of a bi-weekly collection of research profiles celebrating the contributions of Memorial researchers. Be sure to check back for future profiles.

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