Background: Diabetes education presents two major challenges to the U.S. Cooperative Extension System. The first is that the majority of diabetes education services are provided in more populated areas, resulting in large nonurban areas being underserved. The second is that many individuals with diabetes find the meal-planning component of diabetes education confusing.
Context: The University of Idaho, a land-grant institution, includes teaching, research, and extension as part of its mission. Extension means "reaching out," and in Idaho, the Extension Service provides research-based programs on agricultural, natural resources, youth, family, community, and environmental issues in 42 of Idaho's 44 counties, making it accessible to most Idahoans.
Methods: The University of Idaho Extension Service collaborated with dietitians and certified diabetes educators to develop and test materials that simplify the meal-planning component of diabetes education. The result was a four-lesson curriculum, The Healthy Diabetes Plate, which used the plate format to teach individuals about the type and amount of foods they should consume at each meal. In 2004, the four-lesson curriculum was taught in three urban and five rural counties. Surveys, hands-on activities, and note-taking of participants' comments were used to collect data on participants' characteristics, their ability to plan meals, and changes in eating habits.
Consequences: Participants were able to correctly plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals and improved their intake of fruit and vegetables.
Interpretation: Quantitative and qualitative evaluation information gathered from class participants helped identify which components of The Healthy Diabetes Plate curriculum were effective.