Diabetes health fair set Thursday

By NICK ROGERS, Greenwood Leflore Commonwealth

Greenwood Leflore Hospital will conduct a community health fair with a focus on diabetes education and management on Thursday, and NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins will be in attendance.

The fair will be held from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Leflore County Civic Center.

Wilkins, a longtime Atlanta Hawks player, ranks 12th on the NBA career scoring list with 26,668 points. He was diagnosed with Type II diabetes after retiring from professional basketball and has since spoken regularly about living with the disease.

In Mississippi, between one in five and one in eight people will be diagnosed with diabetes during their lifetimes, compared with a national incidence rate of one in 12. Diabetes educator and registered nurse Angela Jones said the explanation for the state’s higher incidence rate is straightforward — “meals and lack of exercise.” Allison Faulkner, the hospital’s communications director, said that many in the Delta are fatalistic about their diabetes prognosis. “People think, ‘My mom and dad had it, so I’m going to have it, too,’” she said.

“Even with a family history of diabetes, you can prevent and avoid it if you are making lifestyle changes,” said Jones, who coordinates the hospital’s diabetes education program.

Thursday’s health fair will feature representatives of the hospital’s wellness, foot and wound care centers. Other health-management organizations will also be present, including several area nursing homes and Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

Although many area residents are unaware of the treatment options available to them, Faulkner said that the community is generally enthusiastic about diabetes awareness.

“If we’re not doing something here, we’re out at churches, civic groups and schools,” she said.

In related news, the hospital’s diabetes education program, designed to help people effectively self-manage their diabetes, has been re-accredited by the American Diabetes Association.

The program has been housed in the hospital’s main building in Greenwood since it began in 1996. It serves diabetes patients from as far away as Attala County, meaning some have to make long commutes.

Under its new accreditation status, the program can expand to clinics in Sumner, Lexington and Itta Bena.

Jones said she expects the expansion to increase enrollment in the program and make it easier for existing patients to access it.

The diabetes education course consists of an hour long health assessment followed by two classes, each four to five hours in length.

Patients learn how to make lifestyle adjustments to manage diabetes and how to manage their medication.

Anyone wishing to enroll must have a doctor’s referral. Classes range in size from two to 10 participants, although one-on-one sessions are available for those unable to participate in a group setting due to disabilities.

The hospital follows up with patients one to three months after they complete the program and again after six to eight months. If a patient’s primary care physician detects a knowledge deficit, the doctor can refer the patient for a refresher course on an annual basis.

Contact Nick Rogers at 581-7235 or nrogers@gwcommonwealth.com.