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Your Diabetes Health Care Team

Are you hearing about health care providers you never knew existed? Who are all these people, what do they do, when do you need them, and why? They're professionals who have been trained to make your life easier, healthier, and less stressful.

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The heart of your team is, of course, YOU -- and your most important role is to self-manage your disease. But you have a number of specialists to help you with diabetes education; regular management of blood glucose and medications; screening for complications such as eye, foot, and dental disease; and lifestyle counseling. Put them to work for you! The American Diabetes Association suggests you build a team with these key members:

Primary care provider (PCP)

This most likely will be a family practice doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. In some states it can even be a pharmacist. His or her job is to oversee all aspects of your diabetes and refer you to specialists as needed. Look for a professional who sees other people with diabetes and has access to support staff, such as educators and counselors. Make sure all health care providers you see route reports to your primary care provider to ensure thorough and consistent management of your disease. Go to: The American Diabetes Association and the National Committee for Quality Assurance for a list of physicians who have met the standards of the Diabetes Physician Recognition Program. recognition.ncqa.org

Endocrinologist (M.D. or D.O.)

Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, this doctor specializes in diseases of the endocrine system, including diabetes. You may need this level of care if you have type 1 diabetes, complications, or trouble managing your disease. In that case you will most likely see an endocrinologist once a year or more and your primary care provider more frequently. People with type 2 diabetes usually do not see an endocrinologist. One benefit of an endocrinology clinic is that it can offer access to multiple other providers, such as dietitians and diabetes educators. The waiting list for endocrinologists can be long, however; some areas, such as rural communities, have no endocrinology practices. Go to: The Hormone Foundation for a referral directory of the 3,000 members of The Endocrine Society. hormone.org and aace.com/resources/find-an-endocrinologist

Certified diabetes educator (CDE)

One of the biggest steps to diabetes health is learning to manage your disease yourself. A certified diabetes educator can be a nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, or social worker who has passed a formal qualifying examination through the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. This professional will train you in blood glucose monitoring, meal planning, and exercise and lifestyle habits. This should be one of your first visits after diagnosis and remain a continuing part of your treatment. Go to: The American Association of Diabetes Educators to find a local diabetes educator and opportunities for diabetes self-management education (DSME). diabeteseducator.org and professional.diabetes.org/erp_zip_search.aspx

Registered Dietitian (RD)

This expert in food and nutrition has met the professional criteria of the American Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. An RD's job is to help you develop a healthy yet tasty meal plan geared to your specific case and teach you long-term skills to balance diet, medications, and activity. Many CDEs are also RDs. Go to: the American Dietetic Association for a local RD. eatright.org/programs/rdfinder

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