Forum participants share diabetes experience, concerns

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By Cindy DiFazio

Sharon Potts is one of six siblings. Five of those siblings have diabetes.
“I’ve had it for 15 years,” she said. “I hate taking medications and I’ve been insulin dependent for five years.”

Smithfield’s Judy Bender said coping with the disease is still confusing after two years of dealing with it.

Dallas Milliner sympathized and singled out Cook’s pharmacist George McDonald for helping him learn about diabetes. “I had a hard time finding information,” he said.

He said a monthly support group he attended at Baptist Hospital Northeast in La Grange was indispensable.

All were gathered last week at the Henry County Extension office for the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency’s Rural Diabetes Coalition meeting.

The coalition encompasses Henry, Shelby and Bullitt counties and will be funded by a five-year grant. The University of Louisville is a partner in the effort to bring resources and services to areas with limited access.

The KIPDA website states it is partnering with the University Of Louisville Kent School Of Social Work. The two have been awarded a five-year grant by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention as part of the National Program to Eliminate Diabetes-Related Disparities in Vulnerable Populations.

Director Barbara Gordon began last week’s planning session with her personal story. “A close friend of mine passed away from the disease recently,” she said. “It had devastated his body. So whether I have the disease or not I’m still impacted.” Gordon hopes that building a coalition in these three counties will help to start the change.

Representatives of each county formed a circle and got to work.

Henry County facilitator Mona Huff said she’s suffered with the disease since 2004. “It was very acute in the beginning,” she said. “My problem now is low blood sugar.”

Huff said one of the things that will be offered by the coalition is a health fair, and asked for suggestions. The group agreed that free or low-cost screenings for conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure would drive interest.

University of Louisville participants in the coalition said they would be willing to donate their time to perform screenings.

Priorities were discussed. “First we need to get out and know the community,” Huff said.

Coalition members in all three counties will tackle a door-to-door survey of residents. Participants suggested performing a needs assessment to reach that goal, then talking to local political leadership and then health organizations.

“We need to decide what does the county need,” she said, “not just a program for a program’s sake.”

Long-term goals are to establish support groups and train coalition members to keep the program going even after this funding has run out.

Potts said her main concern is for children. Huff said local schools have been proactive. “They took out soda machines even before other districts,” she said.

Huff would like to see a program for grandparents who are raising grandchildren as well as parents and children.

Attendee Sharon Silvers, who has worked with arts programs throughout both of Henry County’s school systems said she’s seen students throw away a lot of nutritious food. “They lick the icing off the cake and throw the cake away,” she said.

The next meeting of the KIPDA Rural Diabetes Coalition - Diabetes has no boundaries, will be Thursday, May 19, in  Shelby County.

For more information and details of the next meeting, visit kipda.org.