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- Gestational diabetes may be fairly common, but every experience with the condition is different.
- To help new parents and soon-to-be parents navigate the ins and outs of pregnancy with gestational diabetes, One Drop partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on a comprehensive self-care program.
- From remote group classes about breastfeeding nutrition to one-on-one phone calls covering upcoming doctor appointments, One Drop coaches supported these moms through every step of their pregnancy and postpartum journeys.
Every year, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) affects anywhere between 2% and 10% of pregnancies in the U.S. But not all of those pregnancies look the same. Some pregnant people need extra support with nutrition during and after pregnancy; others need advice about maintaining a healthy weight for both themselves and their baby. Some parents are even juggling not just a gestational diabetes diagnosis, but also housing and safety issues that make it difficult for them to access basic care for themselves and their families. To help bridge some of those gaps and provide much-needed, individualized support with everything from blood sugar management to breastfeeding, One Drop partnered with a New York-based hospital on a gestational diabetes pilot program.
One Drop’s Gestational Diabetes Program
Starting in May 2021, One Drop collaborated with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to enroll 37 people with gestational diabetes from Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in a program that provides these new moms and soon-to-be-moms with the full One Drop experience. As part of our commitment to TechQuity, our goal was to bring both health technology resources and culturally appropriate treatment approaches to new parents who might not otherwise have access to high-quality personalized support.
In addition to giving them a One Drop Premium membership, a blood pressure monitor, and a blood glucose meter kit with testing supplies (test strips and lancets), One Drop coaches also took time to connect with people outside of the app through regular one-on-one phone calls and remote group education sessions on everything from breastfeeding to healthy cooking. Plus, throughout the program (which was offered in both English and Spanish), One Drop coaches worked closely with each person’s healthcare providers to ensure everyone received the best possible care.
“We covered so many different topics in our phone calls and remote sessions,” says One Drop coach, Sandra Gonzalez, a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES). “For instance, one woman shared with me that her baby seemed to be having trouble gaining weight, and I encouraged her to ask for a referral for someone who specializes in pediatric nutrition at her next pediatrician appointment.”
“Sometimes it’s as simple as that,” adds Gonzalez. “A little support can go a long way.”
Going Above and Beyond the Demands of a Diabetes Diagnosis
Living with diabetes (particularly gestational diabetes) entails much more than just healthy habits like diet, exercise, and medication management. To help someone commit to these habits in the first place, it’s important to meet them where they are.
For example, One Drop coach, Melinda Washington, RDN, CDCES, recognizes the value of culturally relevant approaches to health. Research shows that culturally appropriate care, and taking differences in ethnicity into consideration, is “critical” in successfully managing gestational diabetes.
“When working with people with GDM, I’ve always been very intentional about creating a culturally relevant experience for them, as they may not have been able to get that in other traditional healthcare and clinical settings,” says Washington. “I try to create a sense of community through the celebration of different people’s cultures, whether that means encouraging certain traditions that someone may have around pregnancy and birth, or, if someone doesn’t have an established way of celebrating this time in their life, I try to help them find one.”
Oftentimes it’s helpful for pregnant people to simply connect with someone they can see themselves in, adds Washington. For instance, one mom whom we worked with expressed gratitude that she could work with a One Drop coach of African American descent, as it provided an opportunity for her to connect with a coach on something besides health or diabetes. Similarly, Gonzalez, who is Latina and fluent in Spanish, was uniquely positioned to help and connect with Latinx and Spanish-speaking participants in the GDM program.
Beyond cultural connections, One Drop coaches also provided support in terms of advocacy for soon-to-be parents with questions related to housing assistance. As we know, social determinants of health—that is, the conditions in places where we live, work, learn, and play that can affect our health outcomes—can influence the risk of a number of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Gonzalez, for example, worked with a parent who was living in a shelter for some time and was about to be kicked out. “She had very little support at that time,” shares Gonzalez. “First, I helped her navigate where to apply for affordable housing. Then, when she got to her new location, she didn’t have heating at first, and her baby was starting to get a cold. So, I helped her figure out where and how to report the heating issue to the right department in her state’s housing system. Within 24 hours, her heating issue had been resolved. I remember she called me the next day, near tears, and said, ‘I cannot believe how much you’ve helped me.’”
The reality is that it’s nearly impossible to think about your health when everything else around you is falling apart. If you’re about to be evicted, for example, you’re probably not going to take time at that particular moment to learn about diabetes management, regardless of whether or not it would help.
As health coaches, we have to recognize that reality and tackle each issue as it arises as best as we can. How can we prevent you from getting evicted? What resources can we help you access? Who can we tap for extra assistance?”
The secret ingredient to going above and beyond in this work: passion—and you can’t teach passion. You either have it or you don’t. But passion is what takes us to the next level in this type of work.Reminder: You don’t have to be in this GDM pilot program to receive support for gestational diabetes. If you’re currently a One Drop Premium member, you can message your coach now to start your own self-care journey.