Tackling Diabetes in Rural Communities

About 1 million people in the Mid South—10% of the population—have been diagnosed with diabetes, with another 3 million considered pre-diabetic. The estimated annual cost of diabetes in the U.S. is $174 billion; diabetes’ price tag in our three states is roughly $6 billion. Unless the trend is reversed, experts suggest that 1 in 3 U. S. residents could have diabetes by 2050, reducing the nation’s life expectancy and placing a greater strain on our economy.
Many efforts in the region are educating people to better manage the disease or adopt healthier behaviors to avoid acquiring the disease, altogether. One of groups of at the forefront of this movement is Daughters of Charity Services of Arkansas.
Through its Diabetes Self-Management Education program, the Gould, Arkansas-based organization screens patients and provides tools, education and medical assistance to manage the disease. Through the program, diabetics learn how and why it is important to monitor blood sugar levels, the difference between good and bad cholesterol and how to spot problems that, if left untreated, can lead to amputation or death.
Instances of diabetes are often very high in rural areas because of limited access to health services and preventative education. “With its support, the Foundation helped us expand the program and offer our services through other groups in rural Southeast Arkansas,” said Kathryn Musholt, CEO for Daughters of Charity Services of Arkansas. “Even hospitals have asked us to teach our classes for them.”
Musholt says Daughters of Charity learned how to achieve greater impact through the power of partnership. Collaboration and coordination with a diverse number of organizations—such as rural health centers, health improvement programs, and the Arkansas Department of Health—maximizes resources and opportunities to reach and educate more people.
Daughters of Charity’s work is yielding positive results, including an overall lowering of participants’ blood sugar levels. In just two years, the organization screened 980 people—about 15% of the estimated number of diabetics in the five rural counties they serve –and enrolled 232 in classes. After a three month follow-up, three in four participants continue to practice daily self management.
The program and its strategies serve as effective examples for others seeking to reduce diabetes, particularly in rural areas. “Other organizations are coming to us,” said Musholt. “Our program has become so popular that other agencies are writing grants to pay for our program in their counties.”
The success of Daughters of Charity recently earned the organization the Chronic Disease Trendsetter Award, an Arkansas statewide recognition of trailblazing healthcare entities.
Information came from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Data computed by personnel of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.
“Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2007”