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FirstHealth grants promote healthy living to reverse diabetes rates

Richmond County Daily Journal - 2/8/2019

Feb. 07--ROCKINGHAM -- Richmond County has seen much higher rates of mortality in diabetes cases than the state average for over a decade, but a series of grants awarded in 2016 aim to reverse that trend.

The 2018 State of the County Health Report (SOTCH) showed that the prevalence of diabetes in Richmond County is roughly level with the state average but has a rate of deaths from diabetes at 54.8 deaths per 100,000 residents, more than double that of the state average of 22.2 deaths from diabetes per 100,000 residents.

This trend holds true at least as far back as 2008, when Richmond County was found to have 43.2 deaths from diabetes per 100,000 residents compared to the state average of 23 per 100,000 residents, according to a chart included in the 2011 SOTCH report. This chart only compares the diabetes death rates from 2008 and 2004, when Richmond County was just 0.4 points below the state average of 27 deaths from diabetes per 100,000 residents.

It is unclear why these rates spiked between 2004 and 2008.

Richmond County is now in the third year of the Minority Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP), which is funded by a grant ($230,000 per year) from the North Carolina Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Healthy People Healthy Carolina (HPHC) grant, funded by the Duke Endowment ($450,000 over three years).

MDPP uses an evidence-based pre-diabetes curriculum developed by the Center of Disease Control which helps residents become better "self managers", according to Roxanne Elliott, project director with FirstHealth of the Carolinas. MDPP also works to remove barriers to access to proper care for diabetes by helping residents pay for transportation with gas cards and making referrals to care providers, Elliott said.

These year-long courses require that participants lose 5 percent to 7 percent of their body fat and commit to 150 minutes of physical activity per week by the end. If you are interested in these courses, go to www.firsthealth.org/prediabetes to sign up, or call FirstHealth Richmond at 910-417-3000.

Elliott said these benchmarks have been shown to either reverse the onset of Type 2 diabetes or postpone it. So far, nine of these courses have been taught in Richmond County with 71 participants who have lost a a total of 450 pounds, or 6.3 pounds each, and have logged 215,515 minutes of physical activity, according to Elliott.

Additionally, 616 individuals have been screened for pre-diabetes at community events due to MDPP. African Americans are 2.4 times more likely than whites to die from diabetes in North Carolina and Native Americans are 2.6 times more likely, according to 2014 statistics from the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.

The HPHC grant used evidence-based interventions to increase access to healthy foods and physical activity. So far, the grant has resulted in additional healthy food options in Duncan's Food Store in Cordova and a convenience store in Hoffman, which FirstHealth identified as being locations where the access to healthy food options was low, according to Elliott.

Elliott said FirstHealth will expand to other corner stores in the future, and has started the Red Table program to provide healthy options at corporate gatherings.

Most notably is the Daily Mile, which has been implemented at all seven Richmond County elementary schools beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. The Daily Mile requires students to walk, jog or run a mile in 15 minutes every day on either new or refurbished tracks at each school.

In roughly the first year (data is still being entered from the 2017-18 school year and the current year), 3,505 students participated and traveled 197,520 miles, which is enough to travel around the earth eight times, according to Elliott.

Wendy Jordan, director of student services for Richmond County Schools who served as the liaison between FirstHealth and RCS on the implementation of the Daily Mile, said the program gives students a "brain break," which research has shown allows them to focus better in class.

"One way to begin to decrease those rates (of diabetes) and impact future health outcomes is to educate children early as to the benefits of exercise and healthy eating habits," Jordan said in an email.

Jordan said that teachers and students report that they enjoy the Daily Mile and can see benefits of participating. which include less fidgeting in the classroom and increased stamina on the trail with daily use.

"So many students are connected to technology in various ways today, so this is an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, connect with friends, take a brain break, get some exercise and just kick around in the 'school yard' for a few minutes each day," Jordan said.

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]


(c)2019 the Richmond County Daily Journal (Rockingham, N.C.)

Visit the Richmond County Daily Journal (Rockingham, N.C.) at www.yourdailyjournal.com

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