Kristi Jacques Falk: Founder & Executive Director, The Diabetes Wellness Council

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My Admission Statement : I am a Type 1 Diabetes Warrior! Not only do I teach others how to live healthier with diabetes, but I actually practice what I preach. I am a Diabetes Educator and Lifestyle Coach. I am extremely passionate about what I do and what I can do, and most of all I am persistent. I have never been one to give up easily. If I want to do something, I will find a way to make it happen. Every time. https://diabeteswellnesscouncil.org/

Bio: Kristi Jacques Falk is the Founder and Executive Director of The Diabetes Wellness Council. Kristi is passionate about the positive effects “true wellness” has on the lives of children and adults in South Carolina. Diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes at the age of 12, Kristi has searched for a healthy path for her life. In 2000, she owned and operated Abundant Life Whole Foods Market in Conway, SC where her knowledge of healthy lifestyles expanded and was put to good use. After a couple of years, she realized that she needed to reach a larger audience and organized the Alternative Healthcare Expo which later became The Wellness Expo of Myrtle Beach. In 2006, Kristi founded The Wellness Council for South Carolina, now The Diabetes Wellness Council, with a goal of educating and improving the lives of citizens throughout the state.

She has appeared on local television and radio programs and featured in publications such as Coastal Business Life, South Carolina Woman Magazine, Natural Awakenings Magazine, The Sun News, and Weekly Surge. She is a Diabetes Educator, a DPP (Diabetes Prevention Program) Lifestyle Coach, a Certified Ketogenic Lifestyle Coach and a Certified Intermittent Fasting Coach.

Kristi is also a public speaker and author. She was most recently the Keynote Speaker at the Upper Piedmont Association of Diabetes Educator conference in Greenville, SC, November of 2018. The organization has a Diabetes 5K event coming up on February 9th, 2020 in Myrtle Beach, SC.

How did you get into the industry?

My “introduction to the industry” actually came when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982. After having ups and downs and making every mistake in the book, I finally decided to take control of my health. I am under very tight control and now helping others work to achieve the same.

Any emerging industry trends?

Things have changed so much since my initial diagnosis. Especially when it comes to testing. I wasn’t able to check my glucose at home back then. Now, Continuous Glucose Monitors are everywhere and people can know their numbers without a finger prick. They help people achieve far better outcomes and better overall health. Also, insulin pumps and the CGM’s can work together as an “artificial pancreas” to make management even easier. The technology is improving every year and I’m excited for what the future holds.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

To be perfectly honest, the number one challenge for myself and other diabetes educators, is getting people to not only accept their diagnosis, but be willing to learn more about it and work towards improving their health and their lives. So many of those, especially with Type 2, are content with simply taking the pill that was prescribed to them and not worrying about making any lifestyle changes. Even the ads for the pharmaceuticals state clearly that the medications help, “along with diet and exercise”. I am not sure what the reason is but it breaks my heart. I really want people to be a partner in their healthcare, not just stand on the sidelines. They need to become their own health advocate.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business? 

The organization started out under a different name with a much larger and broader goal, to teach anyone and everyone about better health and lifestyles. After many years, it became clear that we needed to focus on a specific cause and goal. As a diabetic under tight control, that became the best avenue. The ideal future for us would be to grow the organization, hire more educators and staff, have different chapters in the state and around the country. I want to see the diabetes and obesity trends to start reversing and see a healthier population. 

What's next for the Business in the near future?

For a long time, the standard measurement of blood sugar control was the A1C number, which measures the level of control with an average reading over a 3 month period. This is not very accurate however, since someone could have severe highs and lows throughout the day and still have a very good average reading. The standards are now changing to measure “time in range”. This is looking at the percentage of time someone’s glucose readings stay within certain parameters during the day. This is also where CGM’s come into the picture because they can give that reading much more accurately than regular testing methods.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

While attending a conference in 2018, I met a new company that had a mission that aligned with my own. They became a partner and corporate sponsor for the organization. They have since become like family. I value their ideas, their input and their product which I completely believe in. I also believe in their people. To find a business like that is rare so I appreciate them tremendously. (Good Idea Drinks)

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

As a small nonprofit organization, our biggest challenges revolve around funding. There are so many worthwhile organizations doing amazing work that need money. Unfortunately, people tend to not look at diabetes management necessary or “urgent” and therefore don’t give donations as readily. Funding from grants is also a great challenge.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

My clients enjoy the relaxed setting and the conversational aspect of our services. Since I myself am a diabetic, I am able to connect with them on a deeper level and have a better understanding of their challenges. They can also see what is possible for people living with diabetes. I believe that is of tremendous help. Plus, we have fun and laugh a lot.

How do you motivate others?

My personal experiences and struggles are the most effective. It enables me to really relate to clients, especially when I talk about things that I do wrong. They like my honesty about my challenges and knowing that I am not “perfect”.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Learn to question everything. New studies are always coming out with new information. Some of the old ways of thinking and doing things are now obsolete, so I would make sure to always be informed and always ask questions.