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South Dallas Diabetes Care: “Let’s Start Talking” kicks of the conversation

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By Shawn Williams, Dallas South News Editor

On Wednesday night, a community conversation was initiated around a disease that viciously strikes at the Hispanic and African-American communities.  The City of Dallas, Baylor Health Care System, and American Diabetes Association convened a Town Hall Meeting labeled “Let’s Start Talking” that focused on diabetes treatment and care.

Laura Leppert, wife of Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, welcomed residents who came out to the Center for Community Cooperation for Wednesday’s town hall.  I was honored to serve as facilitator of the discussion where I learned a wealth of vital information.  Like many in attendance I have friends and family members with diabetes yet I don’t know nearly as much about the disease as I should.

Diabetes affects 23.6 million adults and children nationwide.  Of that number, 5.7 million are unaware they have the disease and go untreated.  Diabetes death rates continue to increase while the number of Americans who die as a result of heart disease, stroke, and cancer is on the decline.

Wednesday night “Let’s Start Talking” brought together a panel with many varied experiences:

  • Donna Rice, MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE, Nurse, Baylor Health Care System
  • Dr. Augustine Gonzales, Physician, Private Endocrinology practice
  • Tricia Cedotal,  Johnson and Johnson
  • Rev. Johnny C. Smith, Pastor, Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church
  • Esteban Mojica, Type 2 diabetic, Advocate for diabetes awareness
  • Anoma Amekesera, parent, 13 year-old daughter living with Type 1 diabetes

Much of the talk centered around the upcoming Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute at Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center. The $15 million center in South Dallas will have a full-time, on-site physician and nurse practitioner as well as visiting medical specialists. Nutrition and healthy cooking classes will be available as well as access to a basketball court, weight training, and a walking trail. It is a truly unique partnership between the City of Dallas and Baylor.

Many of us learned the difference between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes during Wednesday’s Discussion:

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.

Type 2 diabetes, which is far more common, occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.

MayoClinic.com

Ms. Amerasekera discussed what it has been like for her family since her 13 year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes ten years ago.  “It’s a horrible disease,” she said.  “(My Daughter) checks her blood sugar six to eight times a day.”  Ms. Amerasekera also said her daughter would have to take 6-8 insulin injections a day prior to insulin pumps which she uses now.

A recurring theme was the importance of getting the word out to citizens who are at risk and much much can be achieved through education.  “Diabetes education has to be multifactorial,” said Dr. Gonzalez, “it must be culturally competent and ethnically sensitive.”  Dr. Gonzalez said that members of the Hispanic community often accept their diagnosis of diabetes as final, neglecting the care and lifestyle changes that are necessary to manage the disease.  Many of the symptoms of diabetes can be prevented by diet modification and exercise in conjunction with medication.

A recent CBS 11 story by Nerissa Knight quotes a study showing South Dallas with twice the number of diabetes cases than any other part of the city. And South Dallas residents are 30 percent more likely to be admitted to a hospital due to diabetes or a diabetes-related condition than other city residents. But Ms. Rice hopes that Baylor’s Diabetes Center will breakdown some of the barriers and myths surrounding diabetes in South Dallas. “We want to be a center without walls,” Rice says.

Kudos go to Sherry Hill of the American Diabetes Association, Esteria Miller of Baylor Health Care System, and Gaytha Davis from the City of Dallas who coordinated the town hall which was also sponsored by Johnson and Johnson.  There will be meetings such as this one before the The Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute opens in the Spring of 2010.

Categories: Featured, Health, Shawn Williams
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