Thursday, November 11, 2010

Diabetes Support Group Provides Awareness, Empowerment

By Rebecca Rose

A new diabetes outreach group in Socorro seeks to educate the public about living with diabetes. Open to all Socorro County pre-diabetics, diabetics, and their friends and family, “Living Healthy Socorro Diabetes Group” provides information on everything from understanding the different types of diagnoses to picking out the best blood glucose monitoring device.
Socorro routinely ranks in the top percentiles of counties with the highest numbers of diabetes cases. Over 10% of Socorro’s adult residents are afflicted with diabetes, and that number is growing. Beth Beers, Director of Community Outreach for Presbyterian, started the group when she realized that there was a substantial lack of resources. “There’s a huge gap in Socorro when it comes to diabetes education.” she said.
Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin properly. Sugar builds in the bloodstream, which can cause deadly conditions, such as kidney damage and heart disease.
Diabetes is treated with medication and lifestyle maintenance options, and focues on monitoring blood sugar levels. Beers said that for a lot of people who are newly diagnosed, the treatment options can be intimidating and overwhelming at first.
The group has collaborators who bring a diverse set of skills from various medical backgrounds, including Tonya Lopez, Pat Ryan, and Laura Fazio.
Melinda Montoya, a student at the University of New Mexico in Albuqurque, helped Beers organize the group as part of an assignment for a grant writing class. A San Antonio native, Montoya said that the impact of diabetes in her community is what drew her to the project. “I think everybody sees the need,” she said. “Everyone here has at least one or two close family members that suffer from diabetes. But there really aren’t resources here in Socorro.”
Montoya said that many of the meetings are focused around the challenges people have in dealing with the disease in their day to day lives. “We have a meeting called ‘Bring Your Medication’. We’ll have a pharmacist there to give information about what they’re taking, like the side effects and more.”
Beers also wants to partner people who are newly diagnosed with those who have been successfully managing their diabetes. “It’s so much better to hear it from someone who is diabetic, who’s trying to live healthy.” said Beers.
Mary Norman, Certified Nurse Practioner, spoke at a recent meeting. She cited the unique challenges of being located in an isolated rural community as a key factor in why the disease has skyrocketed here.
“Just take a drive down California, and you’ll see it’s a challenge to find one healthy food option,” she said, referring to Socorro’s numerous fast food restaurants. The lack of qualified health care professionals also compounds the problem, Norman said.
Beers and Normal stressed that diabetes is a preventable disease. “There are numerous ways to start on the right path,” said Beers. “Avoid liquid sugar, keep a healthy weight and move. Exercise is important,” she said. “The human body was not meant to sit in front of a computer, TV or video game all day long.”
Beers said people should start thinking about where they are getting their sugar from. “Would you eat ten oranges at once?” she said, “No, but you drink that much and more at one sitting.” One consumer brand of orange juice has as much as 22 grams of sugar in an 8oz. serving. “It’s much better to just eat an orange,” she said.
Norman said there always simple options for healthy eating, such as making substitutions or eliminations at the dinner table. “Watch portion control. Take half of the meal home with you, or share it with the person with you. Always ask for salad dressing on the side.”
She said diners should request healthy alternatives at restaurants, such as starch alternatives like whole wheat pasta or brown rice. “Cooks like to cook. They want to cook what people like to eat.”
The group’s biggest goal is to help people affected with diabetes become self-guided and empowered in their exploration of treatment and management options, and to be less afraid of the disease.
“Knowledge is a powerful tool,” said Montoya. “It’s important to find out about their conditions, to help them make better decisions.”
“The Living Healthy Socorro Diabetes Group” meets on the first Tuesday of every month, at 306 N. California Street (Socorro General Hospital’s Home Health Care Conference Room next to SuperMart) Persons interested in more information can call 575-838-4690.

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