Bronx Diabetes Prevention Program May Be Canceled

Diabetes prevention coaches and the people who trained them. Back row: l. to r., Patricia Nelson, Delores Graham, Rev. Michel Faulkner, Loretta Fleming, Ruby Garner, Chris Norwood, executive director of Health People, Dr. Robert W. Marrow. Front Row: l. to r., Gwendolyn Kennely, Dr. Juanita Lopez-Kump, Wanda Williams, Darlene Cruz, Rosa Martinez. (Photo via Mott Haven Gerald)

Diabetes prevention coaches and the people who trained them. Back row: l. to r., Patricia Nelson, Delores Graham, Rev. Michel Faulkner, Loretta Fleming, Ruby Garner, Chris Norwood, executive director of Health People, Dr. Robert W. Morrow. Front Row: l. to r., Gwendolyn Kennely, Dr. Juanita Lopez-Kump, Wanda Williams, Darlene Cruz, Rosa Martinez. (Photo via Mott Haven Herald)

A diabetes prevention program in the Bronx, the borough that suffers from the highest percentage of adults with diabetes and the highest death rate in New York City, may fall victim to the federal budget sequester even before being formally launched, reports Ross Keith in Mott Haven Herald.

Health People, a non-profit agency based on Southern Boulevard in Mott Haven, had trained 10 locals residents for outreach to residents at risk of contracting diabetes to adopt a healthier lifestyle, as part of Center for Disease Control’s National Diabetes Prevention Program. It made a formal announcement to this effect on September 23.

However, days later, Chris Norwood, founder and executive director of Health People, said that her organization doesn’t have the resources to sustain the program.

“It is deplorable,” she said. “Public health establishments have to fight harder for this.”

Mott Haven is considered the center of the epidemic, with the second worst diabetes rate in the entire city. Diabetes-related death rates have reached an all-time high in the city. According to a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the disease either contributed or directly caused the death of 5,695 New Yorkers in 2011.

Thanks to a 2012 grant from the CDC, Health People’s 10 peer mentors were certified as “lifestyle coaches” by the Center for Excellence in Aging and Community Wellness in Albany this summer. They are ready to begin teaching a year-long, 22-session course in hard-hit Bronx communities.

When it started to train the coaches, Health People faced a dilemma, Norwood said: though it had no guarantee that the program would be funded, “If we didn’t have the coaches the South Bronx would be the last on the list,” she said.

Without funding, Norwood explained, it is unlikely that Health People will be able to hold classes.

According to a fact-sheet posted on the CDC website, the federal funds cutback or sequester forced it to slice almost $200 million from nationwide preventive programs in 2013. Norwood said funds that would normally have been given to intermediary organizations for distribution to local agencies have disappeared.

New York State’s request for Medicare funds to support prevention programs like People’s Health, filed in 2012, has been trapped in the continued argument over healthcare reform.

“The federal government has spent $100 million on studying it; why delay?” Norwood asked.

Inaction is costly: $245 billion is spent each year to treat diabetes, according to research conducted by the American Diabetes Association.

Implementing the prevention program nationwide would save roughly $5.7 billion while preventing the onset of diabetes in 885,000 cases according to the CDC.

While lack of funding may ground the Health People’s program officially, it’s not dampening the spirits of its lifestyle coaches such as Darlene Cruz, a Soundview resident. For her, the effort to help her community is personal.

“All of us are affected or infected,” she said.

Since they were certified, the coaches have been able to share their training with friends and family, but they lack the means to reach the large number of people diagnosed as pre-diabetic in the neighborhood.

“It’s in epidemic proportions in the Bronx,” Cruz said.

“The coaches have been spreading the word and we have gotten tremendous feedback,” said Cruz. “Everybody wants to know when and where.”

For now, the answer is nowhere.

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