To examine the effects of patient choice between two education curriculums that emphasized either the standard or nutritional management of type 2 diabetes on class attendance and other outcomes among a mostly Hispanic patient population.


A total of 596 patients with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to either a choice or no choice condition. Patients in the choice condition were allowed to choose their curriculum, while patients in the no choice condition were randomly assigned to one of the two curriculums. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and at a 6-month follow-up.


When given a choice, patients chose the nutrition curriculum almost four times more frequently than the standard curriculum. Contrary to our hypothesis, however, patients who had a choice did not significantly increase their attendance rates or demonstrate improvements in other diabetes outcomes compared with patients who were randomly assigned to the two curriculums. Patients in the nutrition curriculum had significantly lower serum cholesterol at a 6-month follow-up, whereas patients in the standard curriculum had significant improvements in glycemic control. Of the randomized patients, 30% never attended any classes; the most frequently cited reasons for nonattendance were socioeconomic. Hispanic patients, however, were just as likely as non-Hispanic patients to attend classes and participate at the follow-up. Patients who attended all five classes of either curriculum significantly increased their diabetes knowledge, gained less weight, and reported improved physical functioning compared with patients who did not attend any classes.


Although providing patients with a choice in curriculums at the introductory level did not improve outcomes, differential improvements were noted between patients who attended curriculums with different content emphasis. We suggest that diabetes education programs should provide the opportunity for long-term, repetitive contacts to expand on the modest gains achieved at the introductory level, as well as provide more options to match individual needs and interests and to address socioeconomic barriers to participation.

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