Throughout November, events were held across the United States as part of National Diabetes Month in an effort to raise awareness regarding one of the leading causes of death and disability in America.
Nearly 30 million Americans currently live with diabetes, and 80 million more live with prediabetes (meaning they are at high risk of developing the condition).
The alarming figures above include members of CommunityHealth’s patient population- Nearly 10% of our patient population have been diagnosed with diabetes, and many more are at risk. As with many health conditions, low-income individuals are more susceptible to developing the condition due to the health risk factors (diet, exercise, accessibility to medication) associated with the onset of diabetes. The prevalence of the condition, both nationally and locally, makes the condition a particular area of focus for our Health Education Department in addition to our medical providers. Preventative measures, such as diabetes classes, and informative leaflets regarding the condition are readily distributed around the health center all year round to CommunityHealth patients, in addition to access to medication should the condition onset.
While diabetes care and prevention is provided all year round by those within CommunityHealth, hosting a specific Diabetes Day allows patients, including those just diagnosed and those who’ve had the condition for years, to experience holistic treatment for diabetes in one day. This year, 25 patients- and family members attended the event, where they received a variety of complimentary measures all designed to improve their health and equip them with the knowledge needed to better manage their condition.
Every patient in attendance received a foot exam, and 15 patients also received retinal exams, covering two of the most common areas for further health complications for those with diabetes. In addition to the exams, there was a range of activities focusing upon nutrition- A nutrition lesson was held to explain why certain food is to be avoided for those with diabetes, and how other foods can play a really helpful role in managing the condition. Following the lesson, patients were invited to serve themselves lunch from an a la carte setup featuring an impressive range of proteins, whole grains, veggies and fruits- laid out to illustrate the flexibility and range of foods available in a diabetic diet. Helping to visually guide the lunch servings was a diabetic MyPlate, a plate split into sections illustrating the nutritional breakdown of an ideal diabetic meal; ½ non-starchy vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ whole grains, vegetables containing carbohydrates and/or fruit.
Following lunch, there was further discussion regarding the steps that can be taken to ensure blood sugar levels are maintained at a healthy plateau, and also a presentation on the opportunities for exercise here at the health center that can help contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Then it was time for the annual favorite of patients attending Diabetes Day- the raffle! All the prizes were nutrition-related and designed to make maintaining a healthy diet easier; diabetic MyPlate’s, vegetable steamers, salad shakers, and silverware were among the prizes won. To ensure that those who weren’t so lucky in the raffle didn’t go home empty-handed, CommunityHealth goody bags were given out at the end of the day containing equally health-conscious gifts, such as; toothbrushes, fruit infusion water bottles, and reusable insulated grocery bags.
Not only is Diabetes Day a great day that has positive health benefits for all patients who attend, it is also a wonderful demonstration of the multiple aspects of CommunityHealth combining together to improve the health of our local community. The patients themselves voluntarily come to the health center on a Saturday out of a desire to manage their condition; volunteers are prominently involved throughout the day with Rush medical students providing the foot exams under the supervision of Dr. Liza Pilch, a longtime CommunityHealth volunteer; Zoe Lang and Bozena Tybor, frequent Health Education Department volunteers, taught and set out the nutritionally focused segment of the day; and numerous volunteer translators are on hand to ensure all the information is being received. Last, but certainly not least, CommunityHealth staff did a wonderful job coordinating the examination and teaching of 25 patients, ensuring that everyone in attendance received a great mix of practical and theoretical advice.
Adelle White, Health Education Manager, said of the day:
“It was a successful and fun day! It’s always great to see our patients so actively engaged in ways to help improve and manage their conditions.”