In the last year, six southwestern Kansas agents contacted more than 8,000 Kansans and provided 37,500 hours of education.
Agents Work Together to Reach More, Teach More
Bill Watson, from Liberal, Kan., has type 2 diabetes, which he and his wife, Linda, had been trying to manage with diet and medication.
Neither had prior experience with the disease, so Linda signed up to attend a Dining with Diabetes Workshop offered by the K-State Research and Extension office in Seward County.
“We didn’t know that we should be asking for an A1c test,” Linda said.
The test measures the average blood sugar level over a three-month period. She and her husband each had higher-than-desired levels.
“We also were eating too much,” said Linda, who appreciated the tips on portion control such as dividing the plate into fourths to accommodate recommended portions of a variety of foods.
While the couple reported that they are now more confident in managing diabetes, Bill said they will continue to build on what they have learned: “The more we know, the better we can do.”
Dining with Diabetes is a popular program, and the Seward County workshop highlights the collaboration of six agents who are working together to expand programs and services for youth, families, and communities.
Experienced agents typically mentor new ones, and this western Kansas group has expanded on that collaborative concept. Nancy Honig, Stevens County; Crystal Bashford, Morton County; Christine McPheter, Meade County; Kathy Bloom, Seward County; Kristin Penner, Haskell County; and Mary Sullivan, Grant County, have written more than $750,000 in grants to support educational programs.
By working together, the six agents were able to offer Dining with Diabetes to 57 people in one evening, said Bloom, who organized English and Spanish sessions on preparing healthy meals and snacks, choosing a lifestyle to reduce the risks of diabetes and obesity (which contributes to the disease), dependence on medication, and long-term effects (blindness is an example) of the disease.
Building cultural competence, trust, and a sense of community among an increasingly diverse population is important in building a foundation for educational outreach, Bloom said. Language, culture, and food choices vary, but the need to make healthy choices is universal.
Sullivan puts it this way: “We continue to learn in the process of combining resources and working together to focus on relevance — the practical, quality- of-life education on which research-based programs are built; sustainability in maintaining existing educational efforts and reaching out to serve a greater and more diverse audience that reflects Kansas’ population; and value.
“Because all six of us have our eyes on the same goal, we also can serve as a sounding board in tailoring programs to match grant opportunities and seek supplementary or matching funds from local sources to benefit the combined educational effort,” Sullivan said.
“We’re doing more with less, yet we each know that working together has helped us grow as individuals, as professionals, and as a team focused on education that has the power to help others improve quality of life and community,” Honig said.