11/09/09 — Health Department promotes diabetes awareness

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Health Department promotes diabetes awareness

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 9, 2009 1:46 PM

Diabetes used to be a rare diagnosis.

But today, in Wayne County especially, the numbers are increasing, making diabetes the fourth leading cause of death in the county -- right behind heart disease, cancer and stroke.

"In every gender and by race, we're higher than the state," said Carolyn King, health education supervisor with the Health Department.

Broken down further, though, diabetes seems to affect African Americans "disproportionately higher," two to three times higher than whites, said Rovonda Freeman, minority health coordinator.

"If you compare minorities to Caucasians, for example, the minority death rate in females -- 63 to 23.1 for white females -- so it's almost three times higher," Mrs. King said. "Looking at minority males, there's 62.6 percent, and 33.4 for whites."

And being overweight is definitely a risk factor for developing diabetes, she added.

"Being physically inactive can contribute to obesity," she said. "Uncontrolled blood sugars contribute to lots of complications, like heart disease, stroke, blindness, impotence, kidney failure and the list goes on."

As health educators, their role is to raise awareness about the disease, and the fact that in some cases it is preventable.

"You can fight diabetes to a point, with diet and exercise," Ms. Freeman said. "Even people who have diabetes, there are a lot of people who are diabetic but don't have to take medication for it."

Part of the Health Department's strategic plan aims to reduce the burden of chronic disease in the county. One way to do that is through education.

On Saturday the Health Department will host its first annual Diabetes Awareness Walk beginning at 10 a.m. at Stoney Creek Park.

Instead of being a fundraiser, though, its emphasis is more on the physical side.

"It's a good idea to do something like a walk -- people with diabetes need activity," Ms. Freeman said. "It's just really about bringing people together and they can get information about diabetes."

Individuals and groups are welcome to participate in the free event.

Prior to the one-mile walk, area physician Dr. Alma Jenkins will speak about diabetes. Jimmie Ford, himself a diabetic and a member of the Minority Health Steering Committee for the Health Department, will serve as grand marshal.

There will also be information and educational materials available.

"I think it's important to bring awareness so that hopefully we can prevent it, in ourselves and our children, and make a dent in these numbers that we have in Wayne County," Ms. Freeman said. "It's really important because all of us, if we don't have diabetes, we know someone that has it."

"Hopefully, it will be a beautiful day and a good opportunity for people to get together, fellowship and walk," Mrs. King said.

For more information on the walk, call 731-1290, 731-1235 or 731-1288.