By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Many of the 18,600 or so Pennyrile residents living with diabetes have no access to classes on diet, blood sugar and disease-management techniques, a local dietitian said.
Theresa Clark, who owns the Diabetes Resource Center of Hopkinsville, drives all over Western Kentucky to give diabetics counseling and classes. But this area, squarely inside what a federal agency calls the “diabetes belt,” needs more help, she said.
Now Clark’s clinic is one of just 10 organizations in the U.S. to get a grant for educating more diabetics.
She’ll soon launch free satellite classes in Elkton, Cadiz and Central City. They’ll be in community centers, like libraries or senior-citizen centers.
“You know, a lot of people don’t have the financial ability to come all the way to Hopkinsville,” she said.
This year the American Association of Diabetes Educators is giving Clark and her staff $20,000 for supplies and other expenses. They can renew it up to three consecutive years, so Clark hopes to start more satellite classes in the near future.
Participants will go through assessments, then they’ll get nine hours’ worth of training on testing and managing blood sugar, eating at home and away, coping with their disease and other crucial areas, Clark said.
“Knowledge is power, for any of us,” she said.
After classes get rolling, Clark and her staff will establish support groups in these towns to meet monthly or bimonthly.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detailed diabetes data from every year since 2005. For every county in the U.S., it lists the number of diabetics and the percentage they constitute of the county’s population.
As of 2010, Christian County had 5,752 diabetics, about 10.5 percent of its population. Todd had 958, or 11.1 percent, and Trigg had 1,198, or 11.8 percent.
In the nine-county Pennyrile, the 2010 figures add up to 18,631 diabetics.
Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi comprise what the CDC calls the “diabetes belt.” Those areas have lower education rates and higher concentrations of the racial groups most at risk for diabetes — particularly African-Americans, the CDC states.
Nearly 12 percent of the population in the diabetes belt has the disease, compared to 8.5 percent in the rest of the U.S.
Western Kentucky’s location made Clark a better candidate for the education grant, she said. The foundation recognized this area’s need.
Clark’s clinic, located near BB&T Bank, on Noel Drive, sees about 40 patients a month. Doctors send them there for training and for tests with a glucose-monitoring device.
For classes and counseling, Clark drives to Trigg and Caldwell counties, and this week she was in Evansville, Ind. She takes referrals from about 75 doctors.
For more information on Clark’s clinic, or on the satellite classes, call 270-707-0600 or visit www.diabetesandwellnesshoptown.com.