Flourishing with Diabetes

Doctor with older male patient
Doctor with older male patient
Focusing on what the patient does right is most beneficial in diabetes management.

Amidst all of the lectures on advances in the treatment of diabetes, and its complications such as cardiovascular disease, we were all reminded in eloquent fashion about the person living with diabetes at this year’s World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver.

As this year’s recipient of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Award: Living with Diabetes, Riva Greenberg led us through her approach to diabetes management with her lecture titled “The Flourishing Approach: A way to treat diabetes that goes beyond coping.”

She shared with the attendees her realization that people with diabetes can have a great life not despite but because of diabetes. She encouraged us to approach each of the patients we serve with a positive look at the possibilities.

We were reminded that people start thinking in the presence of praise and stop thinking in the presence of criticism. An example she used was to look at blood glucose logs by focusing on how many values are in range rather than out of range and then explore with the patient how they were able to get the glucoses in range rather than what the person ”did wrong” that caused the blood glucoses to go out of range.

Greenberg also suggested asking our patients about the one positive aspect of having diabetes. Like many patients with diabetes, Greenberg herself felt she was damaged goods. Yet she was able to flourish as she looked at the gift she and others received.

Many people have described that having diabetes made them be more focused on their health, become more disciplined, purposeful and directed.  She suggested that families can be healthier as the person with diabetes adapts a healthier lifestyle.

As a diabetes educator, I find it so necessary to listen and learn from the true experts in diabetes — the people with the disease — and was very pleased to see the recognition given to someone who can really teach us the best way to help our patient live and manage it.

Joan K. Bardsley, MBA RN CDE FAADE, is Assistant Vice President of Special Projects at MedStar Health Research Institute, and 2014 President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.


  1. Greenberg R. IDF award lecture. The Flourishing Approach: A way to treat and live with diabetes that goes beyond coping. Presented at the World Diabetes Congress; November 30-December 4, 2015; Vancouver, Canada.