Health center offers free diabetes services
Marty Chandler, Jefferson County Health Center’s diabetes educator, is out to educate the community about diabetes — a disease in which the body does not produce or use insulin like it should and leads to serious complications if untreated.
Diabetes has reached epidemic levels across the United States, including here in Jefferson County, said Chandler, adding it is the fastest growing disease in America.
And even though more people are being diagnosed with diabetes, there are many who have not been screened for the disease, she continued.
“There needs to be a lot more awareness about diabetes,” Chandler said. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t know they have it.”
As part of the education mission, Chandler and assistants from the health center, including dietitian Stacey Munson and vice president of clinic services Joneane Parker, offer free diabetes screenings.
“We’re going to a lot of places in — and out of — the community to do free blood sugar testing,” Chandler said, listing work places, like Cambridge Investment Research, First National Bank and Cardinal schools; club meetings, such as the Fairfield Kiwanis Club; and community events, including the Greater Jefferson County Fair, Kiwanis Kids’ Day and the health center’s diabetes open house.
The blood sugar screenings are easy, and no fasting is required.
“Even if you’ve eaten, your blood sugar should be at a certain level,” said Chandler.
For the screening, Chandler, or one of her helpers, swabs a person’s finger with alcohol, then after a simple finger stick, draws a very small drop of blood onto a test strip and sends the test strip into a meter.
“With today’s technology, it’s almost painless … not like the stick I remember as a kid,” said Jefferson County Health Center public relations and marketing manager Ginny Hughes.
It takes about a minute or two for the meter to give the results.
“It’s not a diagnosis, but you can tell if you need to see a doctor,” said Chandler.
Hughes estimated 20 percent of the people screened at each event have results at a level that need to be checked by their health care provider.
“I’m not just out there sticking people,” Chandler continued. “I’m giving them information [“Facts about Diabetes” and “Preventing & Managing Diabetes” pamphlets].”
The pamphlets help explain what a person’s result number means, said Hughes.
For example, according to the “Facts about Diabetes” pamphlet, normal (non-diabetic) fasting blood glucose should be between 70 and 100 mg/dL. It also states, “If you have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes and your blood sugar today was greater than 126 mg/dL, you should see your health care provider.”
Chandler said the early detection of diabetes could decrease the chance of developing complications from the disease, such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, blindness, eye problems, kidney disease, nervous system diseases and amputations.
“They can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away,” she said. “It’s a serious disease.”
Lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, being aware of symptoms and having blood sugar checked and monitored by a health care provider is essential for prevention and management of diabetes, said Chandler.
Since July, when diabetes education became a goal for the health center, almost 300 people have been tested, and Hughes doesn’t anticipate meeting the goal of screening 500 people as a problem.
“We’ll far exceed that goal … which is great,” said Chandler.
Two upcoming screenings are planned from 8:30-9:30 a.m. Dec. 18 at the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 5 at Fairfield Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store.
Chandler said any business, club, church or other group that would like to schedule a screening can do so by calling her at 472-4249.
The screenings are free because of support from the Jefferson County Health Center Foundation, as well as the health center administration.
The foundation earmarked the proceeds from its recent wine tasting event toward diabetes education, and the administration also helps pay for testing supplies and advertising the screening and educational events.
For more information about diabetes, the screenings and Diabetes Self-Management program, contact Chandler.