By Rachel Osterhues
According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million people in the United States have diabetes. In order to address this problem, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency Rural Diabetes Coalition will try to reduce the outbreak of diabetes in Henry, Bullitt and Shelby counties, with the aid of a $2.5 million grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The organization will be collaborating with the University of Louisville on this effort.
“From a community standpoint, the coalition will be helping the three counties in Kentucky with the highest rates of diabetes to reduce healthcare disparities,” said Bonnie Buchanan, program manager for the Rural Diabetes Coalition. “It is in an effort to reduce people from suffering from diabetes-related complications. Some of the goals of the grant are to help people understand maintaining their diabetes and to keep them from having complications.”
According to Buchanan, diabetes can be controlled with proper diet, exercise and medical care – all of which the Rural Diabetes Coalition plans to use the grant to encourage.
The Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency was one of the few agencies to receive the grant from the CDC. According to Buchanan, the organization is one of six across the nation to receive a grant. There were 53 applicants.
The grant is mainly focused on people aged 50 and older who have already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, but it can have valuable lessons for younger members of the community as well. The Rural Diabetes Coalition will also be focusing on vulnerable populations, such as minorities and low-income Kentuckians.
Some students believe that diabetes prevention is important for this area.
“I think it’s a great idea because diabetes is an epidemic and a lot of people don’t have access to help,” said Leanne Mangold, a junior nursing major.
There are many factors that contribute to diabetes, such as unhealthy eating and lack of exercise. Therefore, the Rural Diabetes Coalition plans on doing a photo-voice project, making these contributing factors more personal for the citizens of the three counties. The residents will take pictures of their health challenges and talk about their discoveries in focus groups. Researchers will then work on improvements.
“The best way to prevent diabetes is education,” said Buchanan. “If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you need to seek out groups and organizations to help maintain your diabetes.”
According to Buchanan, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency will be partnering with U of L’s Kent School of Social Work on this project.
“This coalition is focusing on helping the rural communities around the campus to prevent diabetes,” said Anna Faul, the associate dean of the Kent School. “We are trying to bring resources to them. Diabetes is really an issue we need to address.”
The Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency hopes that this coalition will have a positive impact on the three counties and that it will inspire the rest of Kentucky and the United States to lead healthier lifestyles and become educated about diabetes.