Diabetes in China

Diabetes Care Around the World - China

diabetes in china

I just came back from an amazing, four-day trip to China. I was invited there by Diabetes New World, a Chinese diabetes magazine. They asked me to speak to educators and doctors about some of the methods American educators use to teach about diabetes.

The conference was held at a very beautiful resort just outside of Beijing. 500 Chinese diabetes doctors and educators came to learn about the differences in diabetes care between China and the West. Many lecturers presented facts about the medicines that we use in the West. Others highlighted the benefits of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

I woke up early Friday morning to give my talk. A group of about 80 educators and doctors were seated. They listened politely to the first speaker of the day. Then it was my turn. I don’t like to speak at a table. I love to get right into the audience and connect with everyone. This isn’t a style that they normally see, but they immediately warmed up to it. I began my talk with a Chinese greeting I had been practicing for 2 months – “Ni hao!” (Hello!). They cheered! We were off to a great start.

Talking About Diabetes in China

I presented several things during my talk, including:

  • The American attitude toward teaching – I told them that we have moved away from telling our patients what they must do and when they must do it. This is the approach used in China at the moment. Most American educators now try to persuade patients to take charge of their diabetes and choose their own goals.
  • Meal planning idea – Most Chinese teachers tell their patients to check how much fat, protein and carbohydrate they have in their diet. I pointed out that while some American educators use calorie counts and the Food Pyramid, their patients may prefer other ways. Many patients enjoy the flexibility of The Plate Method and carbohydrate counting to help keep their blood glucose level in a healthy range. The Plate Method uses a simple dinner plate to estimate food portions.

You can use the Plate Method to help maintain your blood glucose.  You can easily use The Plate Method at home as well:

  • ½ of the plate with low-carbohydrate vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, etc.)
  • ¼ of the plate with starches (potatoes, peas, corn, rice, pasta, bread, etc.)
  • ¼ of the plate with protein foods (meat, cheese, eggs, tofu, poultry, etc.).
  • A small amount of fruit and 1 cup of skim milk or yogurt can be added as well.

What happens if you have too much blood glucose?

At the end, I passed around several unique tools that I use to teach about diabetes. Many patients don’t understand the changes that can happen to their blood when their glucose level runs high. To show this, I use two clear sticks that contain red-colored liquid that looks like blood. One stick is a “normal stick,” and the other is a “high blood glucose stick.” The red liquid in the normal stick flows nicely. The liquid in the high blood glucose stick moves much more slowly. This is what happens in our bodies – too much glucose in the blood slows down the release of healthy nutrients to all of our blood cells. That is why many people feel so tired, have blurred vision, and feel tingling or pain in their feet when their glucose level is too high – their cells are not getting what they need. When I finished my talk, everyone ran up to me to take photographs. I felt like a rock star! We took pictures for about 45 minutes. Hospital managers invited me to their hospitals and educators asked me to come speak at their centers as a look at diabetes care around the world. I was asked to write a regular column for their Chinese diabetes magazine, Diabetes New World, and was invited to speak again next year.


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