Group Care Puts Chronic Disease Patients on the Path to Health

Did you know that 1 in 2 adults in the United States has a chronic disease such as hypertension and diabetes? Even more alarming is the fact that 1 in 4 adults has two or more chronic diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70% of the deaths each year are caused by chronic diseases, and treating patients with chronic diseases accounts for most of America’s  health care costs.

At Mary’s Center, we see the scale of the problem right here in the nation’s capital, where 8.3% of Washington, DC’s residents are diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated 7 million are living undiagnosed.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. It’s been proven that lifestyle changes — including increased physical activity, healthy dieting, stress management, and decreased or non-use of tobacco and alcohol products — can decrease the likelihood of chronic illness altogether, slow its progression, and help patients live longer.

Since July 2015, Mary’s Center’s Georgia Avenue site has pioneered patient-centered group care for participants with chronic illnesses, to help them make positive changes and get on the path to good health. This program is funded wholly by the Government of the District of Columbia, Department of Health, Community Health Administration.

DC Department of Health logo

What Is Group Care?

In group care, a management team of nurses, medical assistants, and providers facilitates educational discussions for both English and Spanish-speaking participants with pre-diabetes, diabetes, and/or hypertension. The ultimate goal of group care is to provide participants with the education and support needed to prevent or manage the progression of their chronic illness. Sessions occur bi-weekly and cover topics such as nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

group care participants at Mary's Center

What Happens During A Group Care Session?

1:00pm: Participants arrive at Mary’s Center, are checked-in at reception and promptly directed to the group care session. They are welcomed by medical assistants and nurses for an initial check of vital signs. During group care, participants learn how to take their own vitals — from blood pressure to A1C (indicating blood sugar levels) to weight- — and the importance of knowing these vital signs in preventing or managing their chronic illness.

1:10pm: Once participants’ vitals are taken and recorded, they each spend one-on-one time with providers for a deeper discussion into their personal health. Group care is a great way for patients to spend more time with their provider while gaining a deeper understanding of their chronic illness."There's more time to ask questions - the visits are less rushed and patients can get out all their concerns," says Dr. Dana Mueller. While other participants are being examined by the provider, the other members of the group munch on healthy snacks, chat amongst themselves, and participate in ice-breaker activities.

1:45pm: The care management team and participants circle up for a larger, patient-centered and patient-directed group discussion. From glucose, tortillas, and foot care to debunking chronic illness urban legends and the ever-important question of “How much really is one serving of ice cream?” — no health or lifestyle topic goes undiscussed in group care. As Dr. Mueller explains, “Group care provides a more casual opportunity for patients to learn about their health conditions from their care team and each other."

2:30pm: As the session comes to a close, participants work with their peers and the care management team to create health-centered goals to prevent or manage their pre-diabetes, diabetes, or hypertension. Current goals from group care participants include attending the free Zumba classes at Mary’s Center every Monday, to walking to work instead of riding the bus, to eating one bowl of ice cream per night instead of three.  

“All I knew [before coming to the group] was that pre-diabetes doesn’t always lead to type 2 diabetes. And that I should cut down on my sugar. So I plan on cutting down on the amount of ice cream I eat,” explained one pre-diabetes group care participant.

“I’m very glad I came today,” she said. “I really learned a lot.”

To learn more, please contact our Group Care Coordinator, Anna Peare, at

To make a medical or dental appointment, please call 1-844-796-2797 or request an appointment online.

Anna PeareAbout Anna Peare

Anna Peare is the Group Care Coordinator at Mary’s Center’s Georgia Avenue location. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Anna holds a B.S. with honors in Community and Regional Development and Spanish from The University of California, Davis. She speaks Spanish and English and enjoys traveling around Latin America, eating spicy foods, reading, and drinking coffee.



Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed 7/14/2017 


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