Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog

Bringing Diabetes Education to Your Community

Learn how Touro University’s Mobile Diabetes Education Center is breaking the barrier between health care providers and community members in the prevention of diabetes.

Dr. Jay H. Shubrook discusses MOBEC, Touro University California’s Mobile Diabetes Education Center which provides education to the public about their risk factors and free diabetes screenings to members of the community who may not otherwise have access to health care. Learn how you can implement this effort to meet people where they are and bring diabetes education to your community.

At Touro University, we have a Mobile Diabetes Education Center, which is an outreach center that allows us to have a bigger impact in terms of raising awareness of diabetes and prediabetes.

So MOBEC is Mobile Diabetes Education Center. There is no D in there, but MOBEC is Mobile and Education Center because we do more than just diabetes.

It’s a 65-foot long trailer that has a demonstration kitchen on the inside. It has the ability to have diabetes education computer stations that are staffed by a certified diabetes educator and we go to sites all over Solano County.

So the reason why we came up with MOBEC is that we saw, despite having good distribution of our health care centers throughout the community, many patients were still coming in either too late to seek health care, they were relying on symptoms very late in the disease, not being aware of their status, or sometimes not even trusting the health care system. And we felt like MOBEC was an opportunity to get to the community, in the community, to provide screening and access.

We might be at the farmer's market, we might be a church, we might be at a health center. We start with the diabetes risk test, we do free blood pressure screenings, we do tobacco cessation screenings, as well as depression screenings. If you do the risk test and it’s abnormal, we offer free glucose screening for finger stick, and then if that's abnormal, we actually do A1C screenings as well. And we do no treatment on MOBEC. It's all about screening and raising awareness. But we also have found that by staffing a certified diabetes educator, if we find someone that has an abnormality, we can actually give them actionable advice at the time that we do the screening.

We set a goal of a thousand people to be touched in the first year, and we have exceeded all of our goals. In the first year, we reached more than 2,500. We're now in our second year, we've reached more than 4,600 people and we've gotten more than 200 people to diabetes prevention programs and more than 300 people to diabetes education programs.

When we think about what we've learned so far about MOBEC in our first two years, there’s a couple of things. In the first six to nine months, we were getting mostly healthy people. So, the people who are at risk were still not coming because they still weren't aware and I think that also, many people were suspicious. “What are you asking from us? Are you giving something or asking?” So, I think that we learned that it takes time for a community to trust you and to engage you.

We also learned that patients with diabetes and prediabetes have many other needs. And so when we started to add hypertension, smoking cessation, and depression, it was really because we were seeing many of these patients – these were other obstacles that were getting in the way of their health and they weren't necessarily fully engaged by their medical community. So by doing these screenings and then referring them back to providers or programs, we feel like we're getting more people involved in evidence-based programs that improve their health.

We would be happy to share what we've done with anyone else that wants to have a mobile education center.

One is you actually have to have a donor. You have to have someone that's willing to fund the project because we generate no revenue with what we do. Two, I think you have to have the engagement of at least one large health system that is recognized as a medical leader in the community. And then three, you have to get significant buy-in from community leaders, so they know that when you come there, you're offering something, that you're not taking something.

You should suspect it'll be a slow start. By knowing that you have to engage the community where they're at, it might take you a year or longer to kind of get to the sweet spot where you're meeting their needs and meeting your expectations. So if anyone has any interest, you can go to tu.edu/mobec. We'd love to hear from you if you’d like to start a similar program.

Dr. Jay H. Shubrook

About the Expert

Jay H. Shubrook, DO, is a board-certified family physician and diabetologist. He is a professor in the primary care department at the Touro University California College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he also serves as the director of clinical research and director of diabetes services. He is the chair of the Primary Care Advisory Group for the American Diabetes Association. He strives to better prepare primary care providers to provide exceptional care for patients with diabetes, and his research interests focus on type 2 diabetes prevention and early intervention.

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