SUPERIOR, Nebraska (STPNS) -- The diabetes education program at Brodstone Memorial Hospital has a new coordinator. Carla Ost has taken over responsibility of the outpatient program, replacing Lynette Hunt-singer, according to Karen Tinkham, public relations director at the hospital. Ost, a registered nurse and director of cardiac rehabilitation at the hospital, has been at Brodstone for 13 years.

Huntsinger, also a registered nurse, has worked at Brodstone for 18 years and has been coordinator of the diabetes education program since 2000. In 2004, Huntsinger received her Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) credentials from the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. In mid-2003, Huntsinger, with the hospital's support, began a monthly diabetes support group as a community service.

Tinkham described the change as a win-win situation for the hospital, the diabetes program and the people it serves. In 2000, there were about 15 million diabetics in the nation. Now there are 23.6 million, about eight percent of the population. There are also about 57 million prediabetics, those at high risk for developing diabetes. Huntsinger said the program has worked with about 190 patients in the eight years she has been coordinator.

"With those numbers expanding like that, there are a lot more people needing the program than when we started," Huntsinger said. "The program now requires more time than I can provide with my other duties at the hospital."

Huntsinger said she will be spending more time in nursing management and in the emergency room at Brodstone, but will remain available as a resource for the diabetes education program.

"Carla is a great choice to continue with the program and build on its foundation," Huntsinger said. "And with the close relationship between diabetes and heart disease, cardiac rehab is a perfect fit as a department in which to headquarter the diabetes education program."

As it has in the past, the program will concentrate on five areas ญญ ongoing education, exercise, monitoring, meal planning and (for some, but not all diabetics) medication. The program makes available to patients a consortium of health care professionals at Brodstone: a registered dietician, pharmacist, social worker, physical therapist and occupational therapist. The dietician, an integral component in the success of the program, has remained the same. Rhonda Burkhart is a registered dietician as well as a medical nutrition therapist (MNT).

"It's great to be handed a program that's been so successful, that has such a wonderful foundation established," Ost said. "The overall focus of the program will be the same, but more diabetics mean a greater need for services. And with the growing number of prediabetics means we should be trying to educate them and maybe catch a few before they develop full-blown diabetes and risk the complications associated with that, like heart disease, blindness and kidney problems."

Many people are not aware that education is a covered medical service with most insurance carriers, including Medicare. Proper diabetes management, and education is a big part of that, can delay and even prevent the onset of serious complications ญญ heart and kidney disease, eye problems and other conditions related to poor circulation and vascular disorder.

Ost said the major renovation and remodel of the hospital in 2007 greatly expanded the exercise area in the cardiac rehabilitation department. In order to use the facility, Ost said patients must have a medical need for exercise, be referred by a physician and make an appointment. Ost is credited with initiating the hospital's "healthy living program."

"Because the cardiac rehab department is open Monday through Friday, the diabetes education program will actually be more accessible to patients who need it than it was before," Ost said.

The diabetes support group meets the third Thursday of every other month. There is no fee and it is open to anyone with diabetes. A steady increase in the number of people attending the meetings suggests the need for it and the diabetes education program is growing.

Ost said part of her job as coordinator is to arrange for guest speakers and educators for the support group. The next meeting will be Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Superior Vision. Dr. Jeremy McMeen will speak about prevention and detection of eye disease in diabetics.

Ost said this change in the outpatient diabetes education program provides an excellent opportunity to remind those people who are at high risk for developing diabetes to visit with their physicians and have a checkup. Included in that group are people who are over 40, overweight, mothers who had babies that weighed more than nine pounds at birth, those who have a sedentary life-style, and members of the native American, African American or Hispanic ethnic groups.

"It's also absolutely alarming how many people under the age of 20 are at risk for developing diabetes," Ost said. "Two million adolescents in this country, one out of six, have been diagnosed as prediabetic."