Diabetes Free SC Focuses on Prevention, Well being Disparities


As a nurse, Louise Chadwick knew the signs of diabetes: higher than average blood sugar, extreme fatigue, frequent urination. “So I diagnosed myself,” she recalls with a laugh.

But the fight against type 2 diabetes is serious business for Chadwick, whose husband died of complications from the disease.

Since 1997, she has used medication, a support group, and diet strategies to stay in control – and she lost 70 pounds.

“I focused on lifestyle changes,” says Chadwick, 77, of Mount Pleasant, who kept a food journal and observed portion sizes.

An ambitious initiative called Diabetes Free SC is helping more people fight the disease, like Chadwick did.

The state has the sixth highest prevalence of diabetes in the country, affecting more than 1 in 4 South Carolinians over the age of 65.

“The older you get, the more likely you are to have blood sugar problems,” said Timothy Lyons, MD, an endocrinologist and medical director of Diabetes Free SC.

That’s just one reason AARP South Carolina supports the initiative. It also aims to address racial inequalities in health care that have long plagued the state.

More black South Carolina residents are affected by diabetes than white residents and are twice as likely to die from complications of the disease.

Diabetes Free SC focuses on type 2 diabetes, the most common form. The disease involves increased blood sugar (glucose) levels, which affects people’s ability to metabolize food. Over time, diabetes can cause heart, kidney, vision, and nerve damage.

“Devastating Diagnosis”

The healthcare costs associated with diabetes are a huge burden: $ 5.89 billion in 2017, said Teresa Arnold, state director of AARP South Carolina.

Diabetes Free SC was launched in 2020 with funding from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. Your task is as complicated as your title is optimistic.

“We can’t change that overnight,” said Lyons. He mentioned three ways people can reduce their risk of diabetes and some pitfalls:

  • Maintaining Normal Weight – The adult obesity rate in South Carolina is over 35 percent.
  • Following a healthy diet; however, many people do not have easy access to fresh food.
  • Getting enough exercise, but that can be difficult for reasons ranging from unsafe neighborhoods to sore knees.

The Diabetes-free SC The project initially targeted three areas: funding centers for pregnant women with diabetes, school-based programs to promote health education, and early intervention in high-risk adults.

It also made a five-year grant to FoodShare South Carolina, which delivers fresh produce to underserved areas.

“Diabetes is a devastating diagnosis for black people,” said Thaddeus John Bell, MD, whose North Charleston practice serves almost exclusively African Americans, many of whom have the disease.

On Friday, August 6th, at 12 noon, Bell Diabetes will be present in a live Facebook session on the subject of living well with Dr. Bell, moderated by AARP’s Jo Pauling-Jones.

Log in to the AARP South Carolina Facebook page at facebook.com/aarpsc.

For more information about the disease in the state, see DiabetesFreeSC.org.

Linda Lamb is a writer based in Colombia.

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