More than 15 percent of Alabama’s adults suffer from diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, but an annual city health fair addresses the issue in several ways.
Dothan Leisure Services conducted its 17th annual Health and Wellness Fair at the Dothan Civic Center Thursday, and proceeds from the event benefit the Wiregrass Diabetes Coalition. The coalition, organized through the Alabama Department of Public Health, provides $150 of insulin and syringes every six months to those who cannot afford their medications.
“They have to meet certain criteria. They have to be an Alabama resident. They have to have a prescription,” said Elizabeth Dean, ADPH clinic nurse and diabetes program director. “No insurance, not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.”
In the past, the coalition received grant funding, but that ceased a few years ago. Events like the city’s health fair provide a boost to those who need diabetic care.
“It helps a lot of people,” Dean said. “It’s not a lot of assistance, but it’s enough to get them by. We try to get them to other resources in the community to help with other things to.”
Treating diabetes – and preventing it – remains crucial to the overall livelihood of Alabama residents. The American Diabetes Association estimated diabetes and pre-diabetes cost Alabamians $5.4 billion in treatments per year earlier this decade.
“You go into a diabetic coma. Diabetes puts you at a high risk for a heart attack, a stroke,” Dean said. “Diabetes decreases your lifespan, puts injury on the heart (and) kidneys.”
Since diabetes causes multiple symptoms, organizers changed the focus from a diabetes workshop to an overall health fair about five years ago, Dean said. Thursday’s attendees benefited from a number of screenings, including blood glucose testing – a critical component in identifying diabetes and pre-diabetes.
If caught early, lifestyle changes – including better diet and more exercise – can reduce the impact pre-diabetes and diabetes has on an individual’s overall health, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This in turn reduces cost of treatment and improves quality of life.
DLS assistant director Roy Kitts said the health fair initially began as a diabetes workshop when a rose Hill Senior Center employee, Dianne Oliver, could not find much information about diabetes care after a relative was diagnosed with the disease. She developed the idea for the fair, which gained support from DLS leaders.
“In leisure services, quality of life is very important. Everything we do is based on quality of life,” he said. “Health is something … we can partner with people like this for the quality of life issues. If you’re hurting and out of shape, then it affects everything in life.”
Stephanie Wingfield, DLS programs coordinator, noted many of the events attendees hail from local senior citizens centers. Kitts said the event usually raises between $2,500 and $7,500 each year and has raised more than $50,000 in its 17-year history.
A grant from the Wiregrass Foundation helps offset costs of organizing the event.