EVMS project targets diabetes in Western Tidewater

Health

NORFOLK, Va (WAVY) — Eastern Virginia Medical School is getting ready to spend a lot of time and money on a major project to target diabetes in Western Tidewater.

The $800,000, four-year effort is focused on the cities of Suffolk and Franklin and the counties of Isle of Wight, Southampton, Surry and Sussex, which have twice as many cases of diabetes as other parts of the state.

EVMS Endocrinologist Dr. David Lieb is leading the new project to find out why and how to help.

“This is the start to identify those individuals, determine what’s making things difficult for them to get the care that they need,” he said.

Susan Spivey, who was diagnosed 47 years ago, believes the biggest struggles in the area are the rural location and education.

“When you are newly diagnosed basically you are scared to death you don’t know what to do how to do it and basically you’re overwhelmed with information,” she said.

She added that hospitals and other resources are sometimes an hour or more away.

Lieb pointed out other problems, such as poor access to healthy food choices, high rates of obesity and a large number of African Americans who are at great risk for developing the disease.

“What’s going to be different about this project is we’re going to track those individuals and see what happens to them over time,” Lieb said.

EVMS will hold screenings in doctors’ offices and at community events to identify those with diabetes. They will also keep a close eye on Sentara hospitals and patients they call “super users’: diabetics who frequent emergency rooms or are often hospitalized. Lieb said they’ll connect those patients with transportation, diabetes educators and support groups.

Spivey thinks that’s a good idea.

“Diabetics tend to take advice from diabetics better than doctors and nurses some days,” she said.

She has high hopes the diabetes project will help turn the tide in western Tidewater.

The project is set to begin early next year.

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