Diabetes education program kicking off

Published 9:12 pm Monday, January 14, 2013

Last year’s Project POWER Diabetes Education Program was an incredible thing to witness.

I had the opportunity to sit in on both ends of the program — the “train the trainer” event where volunteer leaders learned more about diabetes and the program in order to inform participants about diabetes, and the awards program where participants were recognized for their efforts.

The program, led by the American Diabetes Association and funded by a grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation, was in its first year in 2012. Recognizing that Suffolk and Western Tidewater have some of the highest rates of diabetes and diabetes complications in the state, and also that black people have higher rates of diabetes than most other ethnic groups, the program aimed to get in touch with black people in Suffolk to help them learn how to prevent and control diabetes.

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The program sought out churches where the congregation is historically black and recruited pastors to participate. Volunteer leaders, many of whom have diabetes themselves, were trained on how to recruit participants and teach them in a series of meetings about diabetes risk factors, symptoms, prevention and management.

The program was successful — roughly half of the participants had diabetes or pre-diabetes, but many reported they were able to lower their blood pressure, blood sugar levels, weight and other medical factors.

Diabetes rates are on the rise in America, but — in the case of Type 2 diabetes, the far more common form — it is a somewhat preventable disease in that there are many risk factors that can be eliminated. A person’s family history, age and ethnicity can’t be changed, but he can control his weight, maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise, all of which can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Even those who already have diabetes can sometimes prevent serious complications by following the recommendations of their doctors.

The second year of this wonderful program kicks off Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 100 E. Constance Road, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Church leaders are invited to find out more about the program and how it can help their members — whether or not they already have diabetes — lead healthier lives.

Seating is limited, so those hoping to attend should RSVP as soon as possible to 424-6662 ext. 3277 or llambert@diabetes.org.