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Coalition will offer always-accessible information for diabetics

Hernando Today correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: June 15, 2014 at 12:34 PM

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The America Diabetes Association reports 9.3 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes. Among those people, 29.1 million have pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes — the most common form of the disease — or Type 1, which is insulin dependent. Another estimated 8.1 million people are undiagnosed.

That numbers continue to rise as more people, including children, are diagnosed with pre-diabetes. If left untreated, pre-diabetes can lead to diabetes Type 2.

Considering that diabetes is a major cause of other medical problems, including heart disease, kidney disease and neuropathy (foot problems), understanding how either to prevent the onset of pre-diabetes or control the existing disease is necessary to maintain a healthy long life.

Yet those who are diagnosed and others might find it difficult to find accurate information about the disease.

Through lifestyle changes — fitness and nutritional plans, monitoring of weight, blood pressure and high cholesterol — many cases of Type 2 diabetes have been reversed or symptoms have improved. But understanding the disease and adapting a proactive approach to management can be problematic without accurate and reliable information.

For that reason a coalition — the brainchild of Oak Hill Hospital’s Marketing Director Richard Linkul — recently was launched to help diabetics and pre-diabetics find resources they need.

Oak Hill Hospital prides itself on educating people about health related topics. And diabetes is a hot topic among health professionals.

The Hernando Diabetes Alliance will provide a “one-stop diabetes resource” that is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its purpose is to increase the number of adults with Type 2 diabetes who participate in a diabetes self-management program in Hernando County this year.

Linkul, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 15 years ago, has made the cause a priority.

“I saw, as a health care marketer and a diabetic patient, that we have many fine health care organizations that are focused on diabetes, offering different things,” he said. “But the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. There was no place for somebody who was diabetic or pre-diabetic, or a family member, to really know where to go to get information besides going to the website.”

He came up with the idea of organizing an alliance, crafted an presentation and met with Oak Hill’s administrators, to whom he offered his vision. Linkul then developed a website, acquired a toll-free telephone number and began reaching out to healthcare professionals.

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A kick-off meeting was held in which all members of the Alliance got together to finalize the initiative. Those community collaborators include Access Health Care, Florida Health Hernando County, Crescent Clinic, Florida Medical Association, YMCA of the Suncoast, Walgreens, Hernando Today and TBO .com.

Through a grant, the Hernando Diabetes Alliance was able to market the organization to the community to generate awareness and support. It hired Visual Spectrum to design a logo, and marketing materials were created and mass-mailed to the community.

The phone line —(855) 221-5031 — will be monitored regularly by Crescent Clinic, an Alliance member, during the clinic’s normal hours of operation. And will be updated regularly for access to education, support, training and answers to questions covering topics of interest to diabetics and their families, and caregivers.

In addition to members of the Hernando Diabetes Alliance, other professionals have linked their services to the organization. They include Ghiath Mahmaljy, endocrinologist; Mary Ann Flowers, dietician; and Jan Trepane, a certified diabetic educator.

The Hernando Diabetes Alliance is offering a free Healthy Lifestyles Conference, scheduled for Nov. 15, at SunTech Education Center at Nature Coast Technical High School. The conference will begin with Mickey Smith, Oak Hill Hospital’s CEO, as the keynote speaker at 8:30 a.m., a complimentary breakfast and 25 workshops offering access to blood pressure readings, flu shots, glucose readings, pulse OX readings and smoking cessation strategies.

Space is limited and reservations are required.

Linkul is proud of the Alliance and hopes it will make it easier for those with the disease and their loved ones to navigate the journey of diabetes.

He has managed his diabetes for 15 years by keeping regular appointments to monitor his health. “Diabetes can lead to so many other health issues,” he said.

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