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QUT and RBWH join forces for people with diabetes

First published 30 October 2017

A new diabetes service has been introduced at QUT Health Clinics at Kelvin Grove as a partnership between the university and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH).

People with type 2 diabetes are the winners, with most coming off the public health waiting list after taking part.

A pilot program in 2016 proved so successful it won the Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners’ Nutrition and Dietetics Research Translation Award, which recognised its coordinators – Jane Musial (RBWH) and Robbie Mullins (QUT).

The new service has now run three 10-week group exercise and education programs in 2017 – each involving 10 to 12 participants – which utilise the QUT Health Clinics’ expertise across exercise physiology, nutrition and dietetics, podiatry, optometry, nursing and psychology.

They are facilitated by Mr Mullins (Director of Clinical Services for QUT’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences), Andrea Cawte (QUT’s Nutrition and Dietetics Clinic coordinator) and Ms Musial (team leader dietitian from the RBWH).

Each program includes health assessments in the first and final weeks, and weekly group exercise and education sessions for eight weeks.

RBWH and GPs can refer people with type 2 diabetes, with costs for the exercise and education program covered by Medicare if they have an appropriate referral, or partially covered by financial support by the Faculty of Health.

Mrs Cawte said the service had received great feedback from people who had completed programs this year, most of whom no longer needed to be on the hospital’s dietetics and diabetes educator wait list.

“It really is empowering them to improve the management of their diabetes through a combination of exercise, nutrition and self-management information,” she said.

“They get advice on eating better and how to exercise – even when they have conditions that may make exercise challenging. We have a psychologist who talks about goal setting and coping skills, a diabetes educator who addresses medication and metabolic changes, and participants have eye and foot checks.

“Some people have had diabetes for 20 years and they’ve said to us they never understood it properly, but now they feel so much better equipped. It’s been a really positive experience for everyone – the patients, the staff, and our health students at the clinics.

“We have lots of markers to see how participants progress and in all cases they’ve made gains in some areas – and in some cases they’ve made gains in all areas. This includes fitness levels and weight, and markers like BMI, blood glucose and cholesterol, kidney performance, and nutritional status.”

The diabetes service looks set to return in early 2018.

Mr Mullins said the innovative 2016 pilot program had trialed a multidisciplinary and interprofessional approach to patient care.

“Its success led to an agreement between QUT and RBWH for ongoing programs,” he said.

“All of the patients involved in the pilot lost weight (an average of 2kg) and all increased the distance they could walk in a six-minute test. Most also reduced their blood pressure and half reduced their cholesterol levels.

“Importantly, the success of the pilot meant all patients involved were removed from the hospital’s diabetes dietitian wait list. It also enhanced our student experience through real world interprofessional practical learning opportunities.

“This is a great example of how QUT embraces the Faculty of Health's Real Health Matters initiative. The QUT Health Clinics provides low cost collaborative clinical care to the community and health practitioner training to over 400 Faculty of Health students each year. The exercise physiology clinic and nutrition and dietetics clinic will achieve close to 12,000 occasions of service with people from the local community in 2017.”