Free screenings help fight diabetes

Published 10:54 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Free diabetes screenings will be provided this Saturday at the Town Square Shopping Center on the corner of Constance Road and Pinner Avenue.

The blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, hemoglobin and body mass index tests are for folks who are uninsured, without a primary care provider or medical home, between the ages of 18 and 64, and who have not had a health screening in at least the past two years, according to a news release.

“This is the first time we have done this,” said Rick Spencer, senior program officer with the Obici Healthcare Foundation, which is collaborating with Bon Secours Virginia, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Southeastern Virginia Health System Main Street Physicians, Sentara, Western Tidewater Free Clinic and Western Tidewater Health District.

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The foundation has zeroed in on diabetes since Virginia Department of Health data showed Western Tidewater, which includes Suffolk, has the state’s highest death rate from the disease, Spencer said.

At 8.6 percent of the population, diabetes incidence in Western Tidewater is one percent above the state average of 7.6 percent, the department reports.

The American Diabetes Association says folks with diabetes, also known as “sugar,” have a much higher risk of heart attack or stroke.

Saturday’s event is one of many initiatives of the foundation and its partners to change the data, including Healthy People Healthy Suffolk, Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community, and various seminars and other projects.

“The programs we are funding help raise awareness and are geared towards changing behaviors,” Spencer said. “A good example of that would be the American Diabetes Association’s Project Power, which we are funding.”

The program trains ambassadors from churches to help change behaviors in congregations.

For instance, some churches have started walking clubs, and others are doing things differently when preparing church meals, Spencer said.

“This one lady had trouble walking, and as a result of participating in the program, she’s now able to walk without a walker, and her doctor reduced the amount of diabetes medication she was taking,” he said.

During Saturday’s event, physicians from EVMS and Bon Secours will help interpret test results.

Test subjects will “learn what that number means, and what they can do to improve,” Spencer said, and those without a medical home will get information on follow-up care.

“We certainly want people to come, and preferably to pre-register,” Spencer said. “It reduces the amount of wait time, and gives us time to prepare.”

Participants will also receive information from the American Diabetes Association on diabetes, the American Heart Association on healthy food preparation, the city of Suffolk’s Parks and Recreation on healthy lifestyles, and from Sentara on free quit-smoking classes.

To pre-register for this event, call 539-8810 and mention the Community Health Screening.