Improving the Health Status of Rural Communities in Kentucky

Heart disease and stroke are among the top causes of death for all Americans, and people with diabetes have a 1.8 to 3 times greater risk of having a stroke in their lifetime. Stroke rates are highest from the Southeast to Michigan. Kentucky is in the middle of this region.

Kim Iman, atom Alliance Quality Improvement Advisor and Peer Facilitator for Everyone with Diabetes Counts, knew deaths from stroke in Warren County Kentucky are much higher than the state and national average at 91.3 per 100,000 adults 35 and up. Warren County is also in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), which usually means it is more challenging to access doctors and clinical health services.

atom Alliance is committed to empowering Medicare beneficiaries to manage their diabetes better and to reduce heart attacks and strokes. So Iman reached out to Bridget Lutenski, Director of the Warren County Senior Center, to see if the center would host a one-time stroke education event. Together Iman and Nancy Semrau, who is also an atom Alliance Quality Improvement Advisor and Licensed Diabetes Educator, offered an educational session focused on the American Heart Association’s F.A.S.T. technique for recognizing and acting quickly at the first signs of a stroke and blood pressure resources.

Attendees were so engaged and receptive to the tools shared, that this opened the door for atom staff to teach area seniors with diabetes six weeks of Everyone with Diabetes Counts classes. There were 12 class participants, and eight completed at least five of the six sessions.

“My experience being diagnosed with diabetes was that I needed insulin shots. The doctor said ‘Don’t eat sweets and eat a 1200 calorie a day diet.’ I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to start, so I didn’t. I did not receive any kind of guidance or education about my diabetes,” according to one participant who shared this powerful testimonial.

“This program has helped me so much, I am learning all about diabetes, the causes, what it is and how I can live with it. Finally, I feel hopeful about the future, I can do this. I appreciate this program giving me the tools I need to be successful. Thank you, Kim Iman, for making a difference in people’s lives.”

Word of these successful education sessions in Warren County spread southwest into Simpson County, so Semrau was able to teach another series of diabetes classes there. atom Alliance was also able to provide seniors in nine Kentucky counties with influenza and pneumococcal immunizations.

atom Alliance invites all providers, community stakeholders, Medicare beneficiaries, family members and caregivers to become partners in its improvement initiatives. We know rural healthcare providers want to serve their community and act in their patients’ best interest, so atom Alliance will help providers by sharing free patient education resources. You can contact Kim Iman or Nancy Semrau for more information.