Diabetes program sorely needed

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Over the years, much time, effort and money has been expended by many organizations in Western Tidewater in an effort to address the region’s ongoing problem with Type 2 diabetes.

Recently, Eastern Virginia Medical School announced it will invest $800,000 in a four-year project expected to launch by early 2022.

The project will first study the scope of the problem, which will inform future research opportunities and funding to produce better outcomes for patients and the community.

Type 2 diabetes, the type the EVMS project primarily seeks to address, is a chronic condition that impairs the way the body regulates and uses sugar. Unfortunately, it is primarily thought of as a disease of people who eat a poor diet and don’t exercise. While diet and exercise can be factors, this outlook ignores powerful risk factors such as family history, race and ethnicity, and age. Other risk factors include cholesterol levels, past gestational diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and more. Anyone could become a Type 2 diabetes sufferer.

For a variety of reasons, residents of Suffolk and Western Tidewater are more likely than others in Virginia to have diabetes, and they also have high rates of risk factors for diabetes and related complications. Our area is in need of this attention from health systems.

Two key focal points EVMS shared in a recent press release aim to solve problems at two ends of the spectrum. One is to provide widespread diabetes screenings, combined with follow-up for individuals whose screenings cause concern. This component of the plan focuses on people who may have diabetes or pre-diabetes and not yet know it, perhaps catching the disease early enough for them to reverse it or prevent severe health complications.

The other key focus will be on patients whose disease is already so severe they are frequently hospitalized or seeking emergency care for diabetes-related complications. These individuals may need a variety of supports to help them manage their diabetes better.

There will also be a patient education component of the program, with the goal of ensuring people who are at risk for diabetes do not develop it.

We applaud and thank EVMS and Sentara Healthcare, a partner in this project, for bringing this program here.