In April 2008, a Diabetes Prevention and Management Pilot Project was launched at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre (DI) with the focus of helping homeless individuals and those living in poverty prevent and / or manage their diabetes. Through the partnership between the DI and Primary Care & Chronic Disease Management Portfolio of Alberta Health Services, the goal of the project was to engage staff and clients of the DI in identifying barriers and integrating best strategies for a sustainable diabetes program. The funding support for this pilot project was provided by the Lawson Foundation.

Managing diabetes can be challenging, especially for the homeless population. The most commonly reported difficulties they experience were related to
• Diet – daily meals at a shelter may not meet their dietary requirements;
• Acquiring essential medications and supplies if they do not have a health care card;
• Coordinating medications with meals;
• Accessing health care services , such as foot care, when there is no form of transportation to medical facilities for treatment or testing; and
• Storing medications in a safe place.

Diabetes screenings and one-on-one educational programs were facilitated on-site and supported by a multidisciplinary team which included a physician, a chronic disease management nurse and a dietitian. Since the beginning of the project, over 450 individuals have been screened. Individuals with high risk factors, such as age, blood pressure, waist circumference, family history or symptoms, or those who have been diagnosed with diabetes, all have received support to manage their diabetes.

The ultimate goal of the project was to develop and implement a sustainable and community-based Diabetes Prevention and Management Program which would be responsive and sensitive to the unique social, financial and medical needs of the Homeless Population and Shelter Residents in Calgary. With the support of Alberta Health Services, Mosaic Primary Care Network and the DI, a chronic disease management nurse and dietitian will be working with these individuals at the DI. The program expansion will include addressing the other chronic conditions. The pilot project was a success.