Learning from neighbors how to fight diabetes
By Franco Latona | Wed, 06/03/2015 - 2:00am
Inside Finish Line at West Towne Mall on a sunny blustery Monday afternoon, Tim Collins purchases a pair of black Air Jordan basketball shoes. At 47, he says he stays in shape by playing sports, especially basketball and softball. The shoes cost $64, but Collins will only have to cover $14. The other $50 he earned by completing Project POWER, a program introduced by the American Diabetes Association.
Aimed at curbing diabetes in the African-American community, Project POWER trains interested community members in how to prevent and manage the illness. Community members then go back to their neighborhoods as “Project POWER Ambassadors” to hold one to two hour classes, once a week for six weeks. Classes are free for anyone interested in joining.
Gloria Manadier-Farr and Sina Davis were trained as PPA's for the Allied Dunn's Marsh Neighborhood. They represent Mothers in the Neighborhood, a women's community group that partners with a number of organizations—a couple of which are the Madison Police Department and Eat Play Bike—to implement positive programs for Allied residents. Formed in 2010, it resulted from a trip Davis took to the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. She said there are currently 30-35 active members.
Allied residents that participated in this round of classes learned about preventing and treating diabetes. Project POWER provides a complete implementation guide along with handouts for group discussions. Participants learned the importance of healthy eating and exercise habits (whether one is diabetic or not), differences between type one and type two diabetes, and the importance of checking blood sugar frequently for those suffering from the illness.
Meriter Hospital facilitated training between the ADA and community members. Meriter became interested in combating diabetes in Dane County after a 2012 health needs assessment, according to Community Relations Manager Tobi Cawthra. She said the assessment —which all hospitals are required to do— showed that as a whole Dane County did not appear to have an inordinate number of diabetes cases.
“But once you drill down on race and ethnicity, it's a significant problem in the African American community,” she said.
The Dane County Medical Society provided a grant to Mothers in the Neighborhood to conduct the classes. Meriter Hospital covered additional costs. The money purchases a healthy lunch at each meeting, and provides a $50 gift to each participant who completes the class to use towards the purchase of athletic apparel.
Though Harris does not have diabetes, the illness runs in her family. Her mother is diabetic, and her uncle and his wife both died of diabetic comas. Harris' son is diabetic as well.
“So my interest in the class was to make sure I educate my son,” she says.
And she has. Harris says she has taken the information she has learned from the classes to help her son better manage his diabetes.
Daphne Maymon was interested in learning more about diabetes for similar reasons. Her mother and son are both diabetic, so the illness has skipped a generation with her. Maymon says her son, now 32, has been managing his diabetes well for about 16 years. Still, she says any additional knowledge is beneficial.
“There's never enough you can learn about diabetes,” she says.
Tim Collins, who says he is going to wear his Jordan's to the weekly softball game in the Allied neighborhood, moved to Madison from Chicago in 1995. Diabetes has been a problem in his family; Collins' mother, grandmother and grandfather (now deceased) were all diagnosed with some form of it, so he is seeking ways to avoid acquiring the illness.
Collins says he has been eating healthier since taking the classes. He has been throwing more of his food on the grill instead of in the deep fryer. Collins says he recently purchased a seedless watermelon from Sam's Club, and has been eating vegetables with lots of seasoning.
“They taste so good even the kids like them,” he says.
This is the third round of six-week classes that Manadier-Farr and Davis have held at the Allied Wellness Center. Next week the group with cook a healthy meal at the Allied Wellness Center, then conclude the following week with a recap session.
Cawthra said she is pleased with how active Mothers in the Neighborhood have been proactive with Project POWER.
“We actually trained a pretty good sized group of people. They're the only ones that have really taken it to heart,” she said.
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