Spiritual and physical health

Published 9:40 pm Friday, August 16, 2013

With an Obici Healthcare Foundation grant that funded it about to expire, a faith-based diabetes awareness project for Western Tidewater is in search of church groups willing to take its message of healthier lifestyles back into the community, especially the African-American community.

Project Power leaders have been training people from Suffolk churches to know the warning signs and triggers for diabetes and to understand how to fight the disease, which strikes people in Suffolk at a higher rate than most other parts of Virginia and is especially prevalent among African-Americans.

With funds from the grant about to run out, the American Diabetes Association is looking for four more Suffolk churches that want to do something about the diabetes epidemic.

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About 8.9 percent of Virginia residents suffer from diabetes, but among the participants in Project Power, the numbers have been much higher. According to the ADA’s Lawrence Lambert, 33 percent of the program’s participants were diabetic and another 20 percent were pre-diabetic.

Those rates may have been skewed by people who knew of or suspected their condition and took part in the program in order to get help fighting diabetes, but that doesn’t make the project any less important. In fact, giving people who are at risk the information they need to improve their lifestyles is a big part of the program. Teaching those people — whom Project Power refers to as “ambassadors” — how to spread the word to their friends, neighbors and fellow church members is another important part.

Ambassador training is coming up next Saturday, and people from churches that have not yet signed up for the program are needed. “We are looking for people with a commitment to take the information from the American Diabetes Association to their church, their workplace, their clubs and organizations,” Lambert said. “Its purpose is to celebrate their individual relationship with God or Jesus Christ and use it to get the strength to make changes.”

Participants will receive free diabetes screenings at the beginning and the end of the program, enabling them to see how their lifestyle changes have made a difference. The training marks a great opportunity to improve the physical health among people who are sometimes more focused on their spiritual health.

The Project Power ambassador training will be held Aug. 24 from 9 a.m. to noon at East Suffolk Recreation Center, 138 S. Sixth St. Interested parties should RSVP to Lambert at 424-6662, ext. 3277 or llambert@diabetes.org.