Graphic: Logan leads W.Va. in diabetes
LOGAN, W.Va. -- Once a week, Anise Nash drives to Logan County, home of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr., and at least 6,000 diabetics.
At Chapmanville's Coalfield Health Center, she meets with one diabetic after another. Grandmas, young mothers and coal miners spill out questions about foods, symptoms, medicines, and the high cost of blood-test strips.
"I have never been anywhere where I've seen people so hungry for information about diabetes or so receptive to information," Nash said. "These are very genuine people, and they just soak up any information you give them."
One in six of Logan County's 36,700 residents is a diabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. "And there are many more who don't know they have it," she said.
"So many people say they're afraid they'll go blind or have heart attacks or maybe go into kidney failure," she said. "I tell them they can keep it from happening or slow it down. I can't tell you the number of times people have said, 'Nobody ever told me that.'
"Almost everyone in Logan County knows of somebody who has lost a leg or gone blind," she said. "People say things like, 'My mom lost her leg to it, so I guess I will too.' That really gets to me, because type 2 is so preventable."
Despite the need, Logan County has no public classes to help people learn how they can avoid the disease or control it. "We have the highest rate of diabetes in the nation, but no diabetes education at all, as far as I know," said Patricia Mullins, staff nurse at the Logan County Health Department.
In 2010, ABC News said Logan County had the highest diabetes rate of any county in the nation. Logan County's rate is now nearly 18 percent, according to CDC, more than double the 2010 national rate of 8.3.
Yet Logan Countians must drive to another county if they want a class. "Lots can't afford the gas or don't have a car," said Dana Wright, WVU Extension agent. "They need help here, where they live."
Nash is a certified diabetes educator. She works for Marshall University, part sponsor of the Coalfield Center. "A prevention campaign could make a huge difference here," she said.
A high number of Logan County children have symptoms of future diabetes. By the latest West Virginia University screening measurements:
"I wish we had some classes around here"
Logan resident Missy Rein is one of the county's 6,000 diabetics. Her twin sister is diabetic, and so is her mother. "It's all through our family," she said. "I don't want my kids getting it."
She tries to keep her kids active, she said. "I've read that physical activity helps keep them from getting diabetes," she said.
Friday night, Rein's son Joshua played left field for the Logan County High School Wildcats baseball team. Missy and four-year-old Zachary Rein were in the stands. Zach, baseball glove in hand, pitched and caught imaginary balls the entire game. "Zach just started T-ball," his mother said. "He's crazy about baseball."
She wants to learn a lot more about ways diabetics react to different foods, how to cook healthy meals and "all the things you have questions about."
WVU Extension is going to offer a diabetic cooking class in the fall. "But there's lots of questions I have besides cooking," she said.
She has tried to learn as much as she can from the Internet and other sources, but "I wish we had some kind of diabetes classes around here people could go to," she said. "There's lots of people I know would come."
So what can Logan County do?
Two years ago, neighboring Mingo County formed a diabetes coalition of doctors, pharmacists, school people, churches, and WVU extension agents. Working together, they got a five-year grant this year for $50,000 a year through Marshall University.