Free diabetes screening draws crowd

Published 9:38 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dr. Joseph Aloi of Eastern Virginia Medical School draws blood from a needle stick on Morris Allmond's finger. The blood was used to conduct cholesterol and A1C tests as part of a free diabetes screening at the East Suffolk Recreation Center on Tuesday.

People lined up at the East Suffolk Recreation Center on Tuesday to have their finger pricked.

It was hardly anyone’s favorite part of their day, but it could have been a lifesaver for some of the people in line.

The finger-prick was part of a diabetes screening offered free by the Eastern Virginia Medical School and Obici Healthcare Foundation, in partnership with the American Diabetes Association. Tuesday was Diabetes Alert Day.

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The people in line ranged from those who were just trying to set a good example for others to people who have been diagnosed with diabetes and wanted to check their numbers.

“I’m very proactive in making sure we have a healthy church,” said the Rev. Morris Allmond, pastor of Healing Chapel Baptist Church. “You’ve got to lead by example.”

Allmond, one of the first participants, made the statement as he sat down in the chair for his least favorite part of the screening.

Dr. Joseph Aloi with EVMS used the blood from the finger stick to check participants’ cholesterol levels and perform an A1C test, which measures the average blood glucose control for the past two to three months.

While machines crunched the numbers, Samantha Hines, a research assistant with EVMS, checked participants’ blood pressure and reviewed a few risk factors with them, such as weight.

“I’ve never been checked, and it runs in my family,” said Byron Lawrence, who was one of the first visitors. “I just wanted to check my numbers.”

After all of the results were in, Hines chatted with each participant to explain the numbers and give an assessment of their risk.

Some participants already know they have diabetes and are trying to control it, like Natalie Hyman, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003.

“I came to get more education so I can lower my blood sugar and be healthy,” she said. “I have a 4-year-old, so I have to be healthy for her.”

Aloi said that among the Medicare population, about half of them have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and half of those people don’t know they have it.

In addition, plenty of people with the disease in the general population are unaware they have the disease.

“We’re trying to find that half that don’t know it and give them the chance to make changes,” Aloi said. “In a couple quick minutes, we can tell you if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, and if you do have diabetes, whether it’s well-controlled or not. My goal is to let people know where they are on that spectrum.”

The Diabetes Alert Day events in Suffolk also included risk tests, coupons for diabetes-friendly items and cooking demonstrations at Farm Fresh.

For more information on diabetes, or to learn about the Tour de Cure fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association coming to Suffolk on April 21, visit www.diabetes.org.