By Jason Luntz
Diabetes is increasingly growing throughout the country as more Americans suffer from the disease each year. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. It is projected that one out of three children born after the year 2000 will be directly affected by diabetes.
Diabetes is one of the most serious health problems that the African-American community faces today. Compared to the general population, African-Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes. Studies are now showing that more than Four Million Blacks have the disease.
Diabetes can have serious effects on the body, including blindness, limb amputation, stroke, and heart disease. Many people take their diabetes lightly because they do not have access to education or adequate healthcare.
To address this growing epidemic, the ADA created programs and materials to increase the understanding of the seriousness of diabetes, and its complications among African-Americans. Live Empowered is one such program that has an aim of raising awareness as well as emphasizing healthy lifestyle choices.
Initially the ADA created the Live Empowered program to help African-Americans become aware of the burden diabetes had in their community. This campaign grew to include education programs that are primarily carried out in churches and other community facilities.
Vanessa Jones Briscoe, PhD, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, sits on the Live Empowered Advisory Committee in Nashville and believes it is important that African-Americans realize that diabetes is destructive to the body. “When you hear a person refer to diabetes as a touch of sugar that is a problem,” Briscoe explained. “This causes a real disconnect to heart disease, amputation, and dialysis.”
Briscoe also sits on the National Board of Directors of the ADA and helped create the African-American focused programs in the Mid-1990’s. At the time Nashville was one of ten cities in the nation to first have Live Empowered implemented. The program is now in major cities within all 50 states.
According to the ADA, Live Empowered uses culturally appropriate materials and community-based activities that empower, educate and create measurable differences in the prevalence of diabetes and its complications among people of African descent. The organization uses workshops conducted by trained Association staff and volunteers to help community members learn more about diabetes, being physically active, and make healthy food choices.
This year the Nashville office of the ADA has set forth a goal of growing the Live Empowered program throughout Middle Tennessee. Savitri Matthews, Nashville ADA Program Director, wants all those who are living with diabetes to gain knowledge of how their lives can improve. “The first thing a person should do when diagnosed is call the ADA,” Matthews said. “We have the resources and materials to help manage diabetes.”
One of the ways that Matthews continues to grow the Live Empowered program is by focusing on partnership initiatives with community based organizations. Over 130 churches in the Nashville area have participated the educational modules provided by the ADA. These programs are always free to the community.
On January 18, 2013, the ADA threw their Annual Pastor’s & Leadership Breakfast. Coordinated with the Stellar Awards, the event had over 100 of Middle Tennessee’s most influential African-American pastors attend the program. The event gave the ADA the chance to express how local churches can help promote the Live Empowered program to their congregations.
Along with churches, the ADA continues to seek out all community-based organizations to partner with the Live Empowered program. This includes civic organizations, historically black Fraternities and Sororities, HBCU’s, and non-profits. Organizations in Middle Tennessee that would like to express interest in conducting diabetes workshops with the ADA can visit http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/local-offices/nashville-tennessee/.
People in the community who are seeking out answers to their questions about living with diabetes can find information at www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes. The ADA Nashville office’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/adanashville, is also a good source for tips and information about living a healthy lifestyle.
Those diagnosed with the disease can begin making changes that will make a positive difference immediately. Briscoe recommended some simple steps for those who are already living with diabetes:
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, try to quit.
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Make a physical activity a habit.
- Eat heart-healthy foods.
To become involved with your local American Diabetes Association chapter or to make financial donation please visit www.diabetes.org.
2012-2013 Live Empowered Advisory Committee (l-r: Dr. Vanessa Jones-Briscoe, Dr. Alisha Hall, Dr. Arthur Lee, Dr. Cynthia Collins, Dr. Donald Snead, Savitri Matthews, Aurdie Amoo-Asante, Attorney Daniel Marshall, Dr. Wanda Snead)