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BELO, W.Va. -- One day in late October, a van with "Jay Rockefeller" on the doors rolled into the Little Dove Baptist Church parking lot. Out climbed officials from the Centers for Disease Control, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health.
They'd come to admire Little Dove's Fitness and Fellowship program. They came because they're worried about West Virginia's high diabetes rate.
Inside the rural Mingo County church, person after person testified about big drops in blood sugar, depression, blood pressure and weight. "The exercise helps everyone, whether they've got diabetes, heart trouble, arthritis, whatever," said Pastor Jimmy Maynard.
The CDC officials never stopped smiling.
Individuals might not be able to change the processed food industry, CDC official Ann Albright said, but they can learn to minimize its impact in their daily lives.
They want West Virginia to create a network of anti-diabetes programs. "Churches like Little Dove can be an important part of that, because people already support each other," Marshall University's Richard Crespo, a diabetes specialist, told the group.
After the officials left Little Dove, they drove to Lenore K-8 School, where eighth-graders told about their new running/walking competition, sponsored by the Mingo Diabetes Coalition. "If we can get these kids active now, we stop diabetes before it starts," said coalition chairwoman Vicki Lynn Hatfield.
The next day, the officials met with the new Logan County Diabetes Coalition. One in six Logan residents has diabetes, but the county has almost no diabetes education classes. The new coalition aims to change that.
Later that day, at a Charleston conference center, Albright cited Little Dove and Logan and urged about 60 state health leaders to join forces to declare war on diabetes.
How to attack it?
Albright sees the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) as the major weapon. The 16-week program teaches people how to avoid harmful foods, create a personal exercise program and find new ways to relieve stress. It lowers seniors' diabetes risk by 70 percent, studies show.