The Foundation for Art & Healing and Boston Medical Center launch Diabetes: Breaking the Silence with Creativity.

Foundation for Art & Healing. (Credit/FAH/Amy E. Powers)

Credit/FAH/Amy E. Powers

The Foundation for Art & Healing (FAH) is pleased to announce a partnership with Boston Medical Center to study the effectiveness of creative artistic expression as a method for improving patient care in diabetes. Funded by a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation (BCBSMA Foundation), Diabetes: Breaking the Silence with Creativity is facilitated by Boston-based Obie Award-winning playwright Robbie McCauley, coming on the heels of her acclaimed one-woman autobiographical play, Sugar. The play explores her very personal drama with diabetes, experienced as an African American woman. FAH staff is assisting in the design and facilitation of the intervention program and also performing its evaluation.

This innovative pilot program integrates the art of “story circles” – gathering to tell personal stories as a way to provide connection and support – into the group session model of care. Ms. McCauley, a professor in Theatre Arts at Boston College, who lives with type 1 diabetes, has successfully led dozens of story circle groups, and has developed this work as a unique platform for creating a peer learning environment for people with diabetes.

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Robbie McCauley

“Talking about and listening to stories about diabetes helped me to manage my own condition,” said McCauley. “I hope that Diabetes: Breaking the Silence with Creativity can help others to do the same.”

Diabetes has a disproportionate effect on African Americans: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that African Americans are between 1.4 and 2.2 times more likely to have the disease as Caucasian Americans. At Boston Medical Center, African Americans make up approximately 65 percent of the diabetes outpatient population.

“The Diabetes Center at Boston Medical Center serves some of the city’s most vulnerable diabetes patients,” said Director of Diabetes Services Dr. James Rosenzweig. “Diabetes: Breaking the Silence with Creativity offers the kind of transformative intervention that can truly make an impact across a lifetime.”

For many with diabetes, especially in health disparity populations, shame and silence come along with the diagnosis. To better manage their own care and live a full, vital life with the disease, support of loved ones and a broader community can be key. But, if that community won’t speak of the disease, that support can be hard to find.

“Creative engagement is one way to break the silence and help people with diabetes find better paths to managing their own care,” said FAH Founder and President Dr. Jeremy Nobel. “Connecting through creativity is a powerful tool, and FAH hopes to guide many down this path of healing.”

L-R FAH President and Founder, Dr. Jeremy Nobel; BMC Patient Navigator, Daniel O'Shea; FAH Program Director, Kristen Fumarola; BMC Director of Diabetes Services, Dr. James Rozensweig.

L-R FAH President and Founder, Dr. Jeremy Nobel; BMC Patient Navigator, Daniel O’Shea; FAH Program Director, Kristen Fumarola; BMC Director of Diabetes Services, Dr. James Rozensweig.

“The creative expression component is what makes this program so unique. In our story circles, the goal is to develop a safe and active community where participants increase engagement with their own self-care,” said FAH Program Director and study co-facilitator Kristen Fumarola. “By learning about diabetes management from one’s peers in new and innovative ways, participants are likely to be more motivated to attend to their health, finding support from those who share the very same struggle.”

Over a dozen African American women between the ages of 40 and 65 with type 2 diabetes are participating in weekly group sessions. The study will track participants to evaluate user experience of the intervention as well as assess a variety of accepted metrics that reflect improvement in self-care behaviors, diabetes-related stress levels and overall health. Lessons learned from the pilot will be formatted into a toolkit for professional use in a variety of health care settings.

“I’m deeply grateful to the BCBSMA Foundation for funding this project,” said Dr. Nobel. “With Diabetes: Breaking the Silence with Creativity, we have a valuable opportunity to demonstrate that creative expression can play a significant role in supporting the essential and timely transformation in healthcare delivery towards person-centered care, offering better health, better care, and lower cost.”

 

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