The 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) kicks off today in Washington, DC.  I had to sit this one out because I'm currently in Europe with my family (boo hoo - NOT).

But I did attend this conference last year, and it's a fascinating event.  This is where around 3,500 - 4,000 certified diabetes educators gather for education, networking and a hands-on expo to see and experience all the latest treatments and products. They also gain most of their required annual 18 credit units of continuing education (CE).  Whether this annual education bonanza is the best way to go about it remains debatable. See my exposé on The Crisis in US Diabetes Education HERE.

Regarding the current event, I asked an AADE spokesperson what's new this year, and learned that the AADE is hosting the first-ever large-scale international conference of diabetes educators in advance of the usual Annual Meeting proceedings today.  They are expecting over 300 professionals from at least 21 countries.

The idea is to build out a "global evidence base for diabetes education."  Obviously, they do things differently in other countries.  While I love the idea of international exchange, the concept of somehow globalizing diabetes education strikes me as insurmountable considering the inconsistencies here at home. While researching my Diabetes Health article, more than one involved party told me: "You could get completely different knowledge even in two hospitals across town from each other."

So do they do it better abroad?  From what I gather, Finland and Australia are two places that have an excellent reputation here.  In Europe, as in most industrialized countries outside of the US, patients benefit from not having the insane limitation of the seven-minute visit with their healthcare provider.  That's got to help a great deal.  And I'm assuming diabetes education is more accessible across the board.

A brief query with AADE keynote speaker Dr. Juan Ruiz of the Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne, Switzerland, told me a little (but not a lot) more:

What we refer to as "diabetes education" in the States is called "Therapeutic Patient education" in Europe. What is the fundamental difference?

Therapeutic education is not solely centered on the patient and the disease but also on the other components which can play a significant role. TE (Therapeutic education) is a systemic approach to the human being. Europe is defined in particular by its cultural heterogeneity. Each education system must be adapted to the local beliefs and values... The sessions are very dependent on the trajectory of the teams and are often a mixture of medical approach and a work on values and beliefs of the patients.

Does Europe use the "Seven Self-Care Behaviors" or another equivalent with patients?

These various topics form part of the background, while the education (individual, with the family or with a focus group) can have other objectives, such as simply to work through the feelings of guilt when the therapeutic objectives are not achieved.

What are some things you all do with patients that are different or not done in the US?

Our therapeutic education courses are a component of a complete healthcare network which shares same therapeutic philosophy. A diabetes course without a coherence for the long term follow-up makes no sense in our opinion.

What percentage of patients actually get diabetes education in Europe? (presumably higher than in the US?)

I cannot answer precisely for all of Europe, but for our center in Lausanne, probably more than 80% of the diabetes patients attend individual or group education sessions.

Dear International Readers: What can you share about diabetes education where you live?  Good? Bad? Indifferent?  Too "clinical"? Or do you find that the educators can tune in to your cultural and personal specifics?  Enquiring minds want to know...

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