Health Centers Combating Diabetes in November and Every Day

November is dedicated to increasing awareness of the disease that kills more Americans than AIDS and breast cancer combined. Nearly 26 million people in the United States are living with diabetes today, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that an additional 79 million people across the country have higher than normal levels of blood sugar (glucose), putting them at increased risk for developing diabetes. Unless steps are taken to stop the disease, it is projected that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050.

Michigan Health Centers are on the front lines of delivering primary and preventive care in communities across the state, and they are working hard every day to combat diabetes. They screen for diabetes by administering the lab test (HbA1c) that identifies the level of glucose in blood, not only during in-office visits but also at community events and health fairs.

According to an update on diabetes in Michigan published this year by the Michigan Department of Community Health, it is estimated that over 250,000 Michigan adults have diabetes but are currently undiagnosed.

“Diabetes in the adult patient can be a very slow moving, indolent disease that the body compensates for very nicely for a while, making it hard to diagnose in the early stages, which is when a lot of the end organ damage is done. To catch the disease and modify its progression requires screening with a primary care provider, especially if there is a family history or over weight condition in the patient,” said Thomas Marshall, MD, Medical Director, Alcona Health Centers.

Once diabetes is diagnosed, a team of health care professionals can partner with the client to control the chronic disease and prevent complications that often arise. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, and lower-limb amputations, as well as a major cause of heart disease and stroke.

Alcona Health Centers—serving residents of Alcona, Iosco, Emmet, and Alpena Counties—has launched a new self-management goal setting program to assist patients in identifying areas they would like to work on to improve their health, such as reducing blood sugar levels. Alcona staff provide the tools for patients to record and monitor progress toward reaching their goals. Alcona is also participating in a study through the University of Michigan to determine if patients who receive phone reminders and work with a health coach are better able to control their diabetes than those who do not.

Detroit Community Health Connection recently launched a diabetic assistance program that connects patients with a health care team consisting of a personal health navigator, social worker, registered nurse, and internal medicine physician. The team monitors patients’ blood glucose levels, helps them manage their medication, assists in making appointments for foot and eye exams, and counsels them on ways to be physically active and eat healthy foods.

Maintaining a healthy weight and proper diet is essential to controlling diabetes and plays a critical role in preventing the disease all together. American Indian Health and Family Services (AIHFS), which serves American Indian and Alaskan Native families and underserved individuals in Southeast Michigan, promotes physical activity among its clients and staff on an ongoing basis. It hosts fun exercise opportunities that are open to all members of the community, including weekly walking groups, yoga, body toning, chair volleyball, and Zumba classes. In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month, AIHFS recently hosted a special two-day Physical Activity Kit Curriculum (PAK) facilitator training. PAK is a successful nationwide program that encourages physical activity in youth.

To encourage healthy eating, Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center, serving Southwest Detroit, hosts the CHASS Mercado, a seasonal farmers market where area residents can purchase locally grown produce and learn healthy preparation tips. This past season CHASS launched a food prescription program, Health Rx, to encourage clients with a high body mass index or who have been diagnosed with diabetes to eat more fruits and vegetables. CHASS providers “prescribed” fruits and vegetables and the prescriptions were “filled” in the CHASS Mercado where clients learned about health and nutrition and received tokens to purchase locally grown produce. Forty-eight clients participated this first year.

CHASS is also implementing the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a curriculum developed by the CDC targeted to help individuals with prediabetes make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of diabetes. Trained lifestyle coaches lead small groups during this year-long program to help participants find success with modest weight loss of 5-10% of body weight and being physically active 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. CHASS is utilizing Community Health Workers as lifestyle coaches. The classes are offered in English and Spanish to meet the linguistic needs of Detroit’s Hispanic community.

On the west side of the state, over 400 Muskegon County residents enjoyed healthy cooking demonstrations during a conference focused on “Beating Diabetes” hosted November 2 by Hackley Community Care Center in partnership with the Muskegon Health Project. Attendees learned how to manage diabetes and hypertension during educational workshops, and health care professionals administered body mass index, blood pressure, and blood glucose screenings. Hackley Community Care Center also hosts diabetes self-management workshops throughout the year.

Just as each Health Center is unique in the services it provides to meet the health care needs of its community, so is each Health Center’s approach to combating diabetes. Walk through the doors of any Michigan Health Center, however, and you will find a team of caring health care professionals committed to diagnosing the disease, collaborating with individuals on self-management, and educating them about living a healthy lifestyle.


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