A good place to start

Published 11:23 pm Friday, March 23, 2012

With diabetes threatening to reach epidemic proportions in Suffolk, a variety of groups are working separately and together to help educate people about the causes of the disease and the dangers of allowing its progression to go unchecked.

The Obici Healthcare Foundation, whose stated mission is to improve health of people in the area, in part, by supporting programs designed to prevent illness and disease, recently has focused a large part of its efforts on fighting diabetes and obesity.

To that end, the Foundation is funding a grassroots educational effort by the American Diabetes Association designed to confront the problems in a venue where folks might not expect to hear much about healthy living: at church.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

About 20 participants in the new program have been receiving training that will empower them to go into 10 different area churches where they are members and organize 25 volunteers per church to participate in a brief series of classes on diabetes awareness and education. The philanthropic organization is concentrating on Suffolk’s African-American churches this time around, since blacks are twice as likely to contract diabetes as the general population.

Participants in the program will get free health checks and sessions with a dietitian, learn what diabetes is and how to prevent it, and find out how they can better manage diabetes if they already have it. By the time the first round of the program is complete, 250 people from a high-risk category — including some who already suffer from diabetes — will have heard the message of good health that the American Diabetes Association is spreading.

It’s fitting that the association chose to host the program in Suffolk, not just because of the city’s high percentage of diabetes sufferers, but also because of the fact that the organization’s annual Tour de Cure bicycle ride will be held in Suffolk for the first time this year. It’s all part of a concerted effort to intervene into the community’s culture and make a healthy change.

“For people who are at risk for type 2 (diabetes), even minor modifications can make a huge difference,” said Deanie Eldridge, executive director for Hampton Roads and Richmond American Diabetes Association.

Her message is a good one and one that should be shared as widely as possible. The American Diabetes Association has found a good place to start.