Marvin Pree (left), Rosa Portillo, Mike Tyer, and their colleagues are waiting to take your call.
Thousands of times a year, when people have questions about diabetes, they call the American Diabetes Association’s free hotline—1-800-DIABETES. They’re connected with a representative who answers their questions with an abundant supply of diabetes information. Often, the ADA staff member follows the call with helpful printed pamphlets and guides mailed directly to the caller.
If you look behind the curtain, the folks at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) aren’t Oz-style wizards. They’re part of the ADA Center for Information and Community Support, a 26-seat call center that serves nearly 1,000 people each weekday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern by phone, e-mail, and online chat. The people who work there are trained diabetes experts who can access a database of the ADA’s most up-to-date research, recipes, and health tips, all vetted by the science and medicine team at the Association.
The Association created the call center in 1997 as a central location for diabetes facts. Since then, it has expanded to serve not only people with diabetes and their loved ones but also medical professionals.
Jacqueline Afable, the center’s associate director, says the representatives at the center serve as both resources and good listeners for people who call or write in. That approach makes the center a wealth of information and comfort. “We cater to all walks of life,” Afable says. “If someone is upset, they may have been just diagnosed. They are hungry for information. And you have those who just want to be educated. They just want to get clarification.”
The center’s employees are most often asked about type 2 diabetes, recipes, and complications, but they can roll with many other questions. Uzma Quraishi, the center’s senior manager for training and development, remembers one call that stood out to her: An elderly woman wanted information on how to get a service dog that might alert her when her blood glucose was too low. “It was a learning opportunity for me,” Quraishi says. “We have extensive resources, [and] we were able to help there.”
Yet it’s the common questions that most stick with the center’s employees. Many come in every day asking: How can I possibly afford all of the things I need with diabetes?
Associate manager Harold Young remembers one of those calls all too well. An 81-year-old woman from the Midwest told him how hard it was to afford her medication, with just $671 each month from Social Security, from which she had to pay $400 in rent. “I was able to make her aware of things that could help her,” Young says. “Sometimes our most vulnerable just aren’t aware [of programs for food, medication assistance, and more]. By the time we got off the call, I felt really good because I was able to help her.”
Have a question? Get in contact with the Center for Information and Community Support in any of these ways: Call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383), click on the “chat with us” icon at diabetes.org, or e-mail questions in English to askADA@diabetes.org or in Spanish to firstname.lastname@example.org.