Senior Complex A Testing Ground For Diabetes Effort

Paul Bass PhotoRetired CT bus driver Trudy Dickerson is eating a more healthful breakfast these days, and helping experts figure out how to help seniors stay healthy in the face of diabetes in the process.

Dickerson lives at the Constance Baker Motley senior public-housing complex on Sherman Parkway, where an 11-week trial program has begun to tackle a killer disease.

For those 11 weeks, a crew from the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center is visiting Baker Motley on Wednesdays to screen seniors for diabetes or pre-diabetes, and share information about how to eat better and otherwise remain healthy.

Diabetes afflicts an estimated 30 million Americans, with 86 million more at risk of getting the disease. African-Americans, Latinos, and seniors are especially hard hit by the disease, Mayor Toni Harp said at a gathering Wednesday to publicize the new effort. Several speakers spoke of knowing people who have had limbs amputated due to diabetes.

Hill Health, the housing authority, and the city health and elderly services departments are working together on the new program, which is funded by a $67,440 grant from the Philip Marett Trust Fund (created by a bequest to the city in the 19th century). The goal is to bring health care and prevention efforts directly to seniors where they live, and to gather useful information for policymakers about how to combat the disease.

City health chief Byron Kennedy said policymakers have much to learn about preventing and treating diabetes. “What you teach us will be valuable to communities throughout the state and nationwide,” he told seniors gathered Wednesday in a community room at the housing complex.

So far the Hill Health crew has screened 25 Constant Baker Motley seniors, 15 of whom have type 2 diabetes.

Dickerson is one of those 15.

A week into the program, she learned, thanks to a screening, that she had a dangerously low blood count. She went to the hospital for a transfusion.

Back home, she has sat in on sessions about how much sugar is in breakfast cereals. She has started eating oatmeal for breakfast, she said.

“I’m feeling much better,” Dickerson said. “eating right.”

Another senior with diabetes, James Pittman, said he, too, has started paying attention to the amount of sugar in his diet, and eating better. He applauded the program. “We want to grow in grace as we age,” he said.

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posted by: Josiah Brown on April 1, 2016  4:25pm

This sounds like a useful effort.  Best wishes to those with, or at risk for, diabetes.

A number of Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute seminars have addressed related health and science topics, including diabetes.  In those seminars, public school teachers participated as Fellows and prepared curriculum units for their students.

For example, an entire seminar – led by Mark Saltzman, professor and founding chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department – concerned “Nutrition, Metabolism, and Diabetes.”

In another seminar that Mark Saltzman led, Chris Willems (now of Metro Business Academy) developed a unit in his words “intended primarily for the high school biology and chemistry classroom. The focus is on chemistry and cellular functioning as it relates to diabetes.”

These are just a hint of the numerous curricular resources that Fellows have created over the years, for colleagues to use with students across grades and subjects throughout the NHPS and beyond.  These resources are available for non-commercial, educational purposes.