Being diagnosed with diabetes can be a tough condition to accept, but the journey to better health does not have to be done alone. With diabetes affecting one in seven adults in the U.S. and the number one cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to the American Diabetes Association, it’s no wonder so many people need access to education and resources to learn how to prevent or manage the disease.
Parkland’s Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) diabetes and behavioral health programs have collaborated with local organizations such as libraries, community centers and churches to offer diabetes education classes in the community at no cost. These programs stem from learnings conducted in 2019 when Parkland Health and Dallas County Health and Human Services partnered to develop the CHNA and identified geographic areas and populations that experience the most significant health disparities in Dallas County.
Enter Jacqueline "Mother" Mixon. The 70-year-old is one of Parkland Health’s community partners and is considered the heart and soul of T. R. Hoover Community Development Center in Southeast Dallas. “We needed a mini-Parkland in our community. Due to this need, a partnership was born in 2021 between the Parkland diabetes team and our community center. They visit twice a month to provide diabetes information to our residents and it’s so helpful,” said Mixon.
The burden of diabetes in Texas is alarming. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), more than 2.5 million people in Texas (roughly 12% of the adult population) have diabetes. More than 620,000 Texans have diabetes but don’t know it. And there more than 7 million Texans (34% of the adult population) who have prediabetes.
The pandemic also catapulted society into a new wave of diabetes diagnoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says COVID-19 is associated with worsening diabetes symptoms. People younger than 18 who contracted COVID-19 were more likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis 30 days after infection than those without COVID-19.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Parkland saw a significant increase in the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes at the time they were admitted with a COVID-19 infection, in addition to those having existing diabetes having worsening control after contracting the virus,” said Uma Gunasekaran, MD, Executive Medical Director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland. “This is why we feel that it so important to get the word out about what diabetes is, how to find out if you have it and how to manage it.”
The diabetes education classes in the community and health center visits by Parkland are changing lives. Registered nurses, registered dietitians, certified diabetes care and education specialists cover topics including screenings and lab testing to diagnose and monitor diabetes.
Class attendees also learn about healthy eating, exercise and medications. Support groups provide information on mental health and healthy coping. But attendees also find comfort in being with others who are searching for a higher quality of life for themselves and loved ones.
Not only did Mixon help develop the T.R. Hoover Community Development Center, named after her grandfather, but she also attends the diabetes classes. She says they are so special and necessary due in most part to the one-on-one connections with Parkland providers. “While there is group discussion and education provided, there is time and space provided for one-on-one personalization as well. It provides a personal touch to the overall health and wellness initiatives.”
The goal is to have a larger, positive and personal impact on the overall health of Dallas County residents and help reduce their risk of developing further health complications. It’s a passion point of Kellie Rodriguez, RN, MSN, MBA, CDCES, Director of the Global Diabetes Program and Infectious Disease at Parkland.
“Diabetes prevention and self-management happen outside our healthcare systems where people live, work and play,” said Rodriguez. “It is critically important for healthcare systems to partner with trusted community organizations. Collaboration presents the greatest opportunities to reduce risk in our Dallas County community.”
The ADA says people with prediabetes have a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes if they don’t make significant lifestyle changes, including healthier eating and more physical activity. Diabetes includes serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, amputations, end-stage kidney disease and blindness, and is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.
Parkland is committed to patient wellness by bringing education and resources directly into the community. Diabetes-related health classes change regularly and program coordinators anticipate an active fall class season. For more information on class locations and how to sign up, please visit www.parklanddiabetes.com.