Diabetes Association Celebrates 48 Years

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With an increasing number of Barbadians being diagnosed with diabetes each year, the Diabetes Association of Barbados is an invaluable resource centre for anyone interested in learning more about this chronic non-communicable disease.

Now in its 48th year, the Association???s primary focus is education. Its programmes emphasise ways to prevent diabetes, as well as how to properly manage and control the disease to prevent complications.

President Noreen Merritt says: ???We want people to take responsibility for their health, to be their own advocates. The way to do this is with knowledge and understanding of the disease.?????

The Association offers counselling services conducted by trained diabetes educators Mondays to Fridays at its Beckles Road, St. Michael headquarters.

It also offers a 12-week programme consisting of lectures and group sessions, using the Diabetes Conversation Map, which address issues such as how diabetes works, living with diabetes, healthy eating and keeping active with diabetes, and insulin medication.

???Part of what we do in this programme is try to get people to understand what diabetes is and what self-management means in terms of taking control of what is happening and monitoring their blood sugars. We do supermarket field trips to teach the importance of reading labels and there are also cooking sessions where a dietician, a nutritionist or a chef comes in and teaches them how to prepare particular meals.???

???For example, many people don???t eat vegetables because they don???t like the taste. I think a lot of the time they don???t like the taste because in cooking the vegetable, we kill it and it has no taste. So we teach you how to prepare tasty vegetable dishes,??? she explained.

Mrs. Merritt said a lot of people also complained about the cost of vegetables and fruit. So one of the Association???s initiatives is a monthly Market Day, held on the last Thursday of each month at its headquarters, where farmers are invited to come in and sell vegetables to the public and where the Association itself sells fruit, all at economical prices, in an effort to encourage people to eat sensibly.

This year, the Association is placing even greater emphasis on healthy eating through its Keep The Culture, Cut the Fat year-long campaign. The campaign is introducing healthier ways of preparing some favourite Bajan delicacies, such as macaroni pie, fish cakes, chicken and chips and even pudding and souse.

These healthy recipes have been created by nutritionist Nicole Griffith, and on the last Saturday of each month, sampling of the recipe of the month takes place at Cost U Less Supermarket, Welches, St. Thomas. Members of the public are also being challenged to come up with their own healthy alternatives to each month???s recipe. Details of this competition are available on its Facebook Page, dab1975, and the website www.diabetes.bb.

The Association takes its messages to communities around the island through its Mobile Unit, which provides risk assessments, cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure checks.??It is also committed to helping people deal with the psychological effects of the disease.

???We believe that there needs to be a holistic approach and an approach which involves family and friends because they are the support systems which anyone with a chronic illness really needs. Too often, the psychological effects on anyone with a chronic illness are not seen or addressed,??? Mrs. Merritt maintained.

She said that because the Association was not a clinical facility but rather a gathering place for support and education, people found it easier to share what was happening in their lives and the educators were able to advise them about what they needed to do to reduce their stress levels.

Another problem, they encountered, the Association???s president said, was the secrecy which surrounded the disease. ???There are influential people in this society who hide their diabetes. They are working, they are effective, they are productive and I think they need to come forward and let people know, yes, I have diabetes, but I am still functioning. But for some people when they are diagnosed, it???s like a death sentence. Too much research and work have been done to improve the lives of people with diabetes for us still to be thinking in this manner.???

Persons with diabetes or who have an interest and want to learn more about this disease, are invited to become members of the Diabetes Association of Barbados. More information may be obtained by calling 427-9338 or e-mailing info@diabetes.bb.

Please visit our Diabetes Awareness Campaign page by clicking here or you can download our Diabetes Awareness Guide which contains tips on preventing and controlling Type 2 Diabetes by clicking here. Also check out our radio and television programmes.

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