A powerful graduation message

Published 8:59 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This time of year, it’s pretty common to hear that a graduation marks not just the end of one stage of life, but also the beginning of another. For those folks who graduated from Project Power on Friday, the sentiment is just as true as it is for those students who have walked across the stage and received high school diplomas and college degrees during the past few weeks.

Project Power is a new program by the American Diabetes Association that is designed to teach people about a disease that disproportionately affects people in Suffolk and the rest of Western Tidewater. Participants are encouraged to take the information they get and use it to make positive changes in their lives. Perhaps even more important is the fact that participants are urged to take what they’ve learned and then teach others how to improve their own health.

The program was funded by Obici Healthcare Foundation, which liked the ADA’s approach of getting people involved from Suffolk’s traditionally black churches and teaching them to be emissaries of good health. Western Tidewater has an incidence rate of 9.3 percent for diabetes, compared with Virginia’s rate of 7.7 percent. For black residents of Western Tidewater, the rate of Type 2 diabetes is almost twice as high. The stakes are high here.

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With the graduation of nearly 200 people from seven different black congregations in the area on Friday, many hundreds more will now have access to important health-related information that they might not have previously known. Hundreds more will get that opportunity with the startup of the second series of sessions last week.

That result is right in line with the goals of both the American Diabetes Association and the Obici Healthcare Foundation. It’s a step toward a healthier and happier community, the first step in a new phase of life for those whose lives are changed by the information they receive from Project Power. That’s a powerful graduation message.