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Good Sugar

November 6, 2006 -- Today the San Bernadino County Sun ran a good article about nurse practitioner Ruth Tanyi, who has produced and directed a new television series about diabetes. Juliane Ngan's "Nurse take diabetes fight to TV" reports that Tanyi's "Bad Sugar" series aims to educate. With Tanyi as host, speaking with diabetes experts and patients, the show takes a holistic look at the epidemic. It explains how we can avoid or at least control the disease by focusing on lifestyle, including diet, rest, and exercise. The Center gave Tanyi a 2006 Golden Lamp Award for "Bad Sugar," which was to air on KHIZ-TV over 11 weeks from late 2006 through early 2007.

The piece is mostly about Tanyi's diabetes series, though it includes a few details about her as well. It describes her as "a nurse practitioner, medical journalist, health and fitness instructor, and a doctorate student at Loma Linda University School of Public Health." Tanyi herself has worked to maintain a healthy lifestyle, conscious that her family has what the article calls an "overwhelming" history of diabetes. Tanyi stresses that while genetics may predispose people to diabetes, it does not mean people will necessarily get the disease, which is a common myth. In fact, Tanyi says, her "goal is to empower people with the knowledge that there's a lot they can do to prevent disease and learn how to live well." Tanyi herself "goes to sleep by 10:30 p.m. and wakes up around 5 a.m.; eats complex carbohydrates; fruits and vegetables; avoids red meat; and exercises at least one hour, five days a week."

The piece explains that "Bad Sugar" "offers advice from leading specialists about what people can do daily to prevent diabetes and its complications." Tanyi notes that the show is unique because of its holistic approach. It looks at "the role of the environment you're in," and focuses on "the American lifestyle" of "eating highly processed foods, eating a lot of fast food, continuous stress, lack of knowledge, and sleep and inactivity that lead to these problems."

Tanyi believes that the health system has failed to give patients in this environment the right tools to resist diabetes. She says she created the series because in her own NP practice, she had too little time with patients. On camera, Tanyi speaks to patients about their conditions in plain, friendly language, giving viewers examples that may resonate in their own lives. So "Bad Sugar" is an effort to get practical expertise to a broad population that is not getting it now. One of the featured experts is endocrinologist Radha Reddy, who confirms that "[t]he bulk of diabetes management is about awareness & about prevention. It is important to reach out to the public. This is an epidemic."

How much of an epidemic? The article cites American Diabetes Association statistics showing that in 2006, there were about 20.8 million diagnosed diabetics in the U.S., and 56 million "pre-diabetics," meaning that "they suffer from complications from the disease and may be unaware that they have it." A good quote from Tanyi lays out what is at stake:

Diabetes is a multisystem disease, meaning it affects every organ of the body. It is the leading cause of nontraumatic blindness in America, heart attack, stroke, sexual dysfunction and amputation. It also leads to other psychological problems--depression and anxiety. All this can happen if the disease is not controlled.

Because Tanyi identifies herself as a nurse on the show and in press accounts like this, the series also gives viewers an example of an articulate nursing educator and advocate. Tanyi's diabetes efforts send the implicit message that nurses are health experts who take innovative steps to improve public health. And that helps to address another critical public health problem: the nursing shortage.

We salute Ruth Tanyi for using the media so effectively to advance nursing practice. And we thank Juliane Ngan and the San Bernadino County Sun for covering Tanyi's work.

You can contact writer Juliane Ngan at


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