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American Diabetes Association planning return to W.Va.

Courtesy photo
American Diabetes Association officer Lewis Bartfield is visiting West Virginia this week.

The ADA website (www.diabetes.org) offers a wide range of practical, well-developed resources, including:

"Living with Type 2 Diabetes," a free online self-help program that takes the diabetic step by step through ways to control the disease.

• Advice about healthy diet and tasty recipes.

• Symptoms of diabetes and pre-diabetes

• Ways to start and track an exercise program, including useful apps.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- American Diabetes Association officer Lewis Bartfield is visiting West Virginia this week on a "discovery" mission.

"This is step one in our return to West Virginia," he said.

"Diabetes is occurring at twice the rate in West Virginia as it is in most other states, so we need to be here," Bartfield said, "but we don't want to come in and start trying to duplicate what others are already doing in West Virginia or compete with it. So we're talking with people here first to find out what's already happening and how we could best fit in," he said.

West Virginia leads the nation in diabetes, according to Gallup-Healthways ranking, and is consistently ranked in the worst three by the Centers for Disease Control.

The ADA closed its West Virginia office during the economic downturn almost four years ago, after the state could not make fundraising goals set by the national ADA.

This time, Bartfield said, the ADA will concentrate on service, with little fundraising. During his visit, he is talking with a range of people "to determine what the needs are and what people are already doing and how we can provide the greatest value," he said.

He is conferring with state officials and various health-care organizations during his visit, he said. "Step two for us, will be prioritizing ways we can provide the most benefit, then we'll go on to step three, which is implementation and possible hiring."

"There is so much they can offer to enhance service to West Virginia patients," said Louise Reese, director of the West Virginia Primary Care Association. "We're so glad they're coming back and glad they're taking care to find the best role."

The ADA will "come back" to West Virginia in one of three ways, he said. In one scenario, they would hire a West Virginia staff person. In the second, they would collaborate with an existing West Virginia organization already fighting diabetes, giving them a grant for staffing or other activities.

In a third scenario, he said, the ADA would serve West Virginia from its Pittsburgh office to back up existing efforts. For the past four years, the ADA's Kentucky office was assigned to serve West Virginia. That did not work, Bartfield told the Gazette in November.

So far, in his visit, he said, "I'm hearing that there is a lot of activity to fight diabetes in little pockets, but it's fragmented, and people in these pockets are not necessarily even communicating with each other." Statewide collaboration among organizations and areas is necessary if West Virginia is to lower its alarming numbers, he said. "Maybe there's a way we could help with that."

The ADA could help connect the dots for efforts to spread diabetes self-management courses statewide, he said or help arrange continuing education classes in diabetes management for health care workers. They could also make sure West Virginians know about ADA self-help online resources for individuals such as "Living with Type 2 Diabetes."

"There's plenty of work to do," Bartfield said, " but I don't want to put a person here before we figure out what we can best do and best fit in," he said. "Within 60 to 90 days, we'll have a plan."

Reach Kate Long at katelong@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1798.


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