Health-Fitness — St. Croix
Governor Praises V.I. Diabetes Projects, Thanks Danish Company for Funding
Governor John P. de Jongh Jr. recently urged Virgin Islands residents to take advantage of educational programs concerned with managing diabetes mellitus that are being offered through a joint venture with the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.
The Diabetes Education Empowerment Program (DEEP) is funded through a partnership between the Virgin Islands government and the Novo Nordisk. Government Affairs Director for Novo Nordisk Chris Porter recently visited the territory to review projects enabled by their donations to the V.I. Department of Health. In 2009, the company pledged $300,000 to the territory over a three-year period for projects aimed at reducing diabetes.
“Diabetes is all too prevalent in the territory, and Virgin Islanders must learn how to better prevent this disease by implementing changes to their lifestyles. Thanks to the generosity of Novo Nordisk, the V.I. Department of Health has launched a series of innovative educational programs to combat the disease, and we are seeing evidence that they are already making an impact on people in the territory,” the governor said.
The Department of Health has identified diabetes as its major focus among its key, strategic objectives for the next three years. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the Virgin Islands is 10 percent; undiagnosed diabetes is approximately 5 percent, with the overall prevalence of diabetes at approximately 15 percent, according to DOH epidemiologist Dr. Eugene Tull.
This rate is among the highest in the United States, and activities to prevent diabetes are warranted in the V.I. Data also shows that among persons with diabetes mellitus, the frequency of end stage renal disease is at an epidemic level. This is reflective of poor diabetes control and a chronically low level of diabetes education. Further, results from the DOH’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (RFSS) show that only 30 percent of persons receive formal diabetes education.
The funding from Novo Nordisk will help address these issues by providing opportunities for more individuals to be trained to deliver diabetes education; increasing the number of diabetic persons who receive education; and providing research dollars to determine the local factors that influence adherence to physician prescriptions and health recommendations.
At a meeting held recently on St. Croix, Novo Nordisk's representatives were given a progress report about the work completed with the $100,000 the company donated to the Virgin Islands for the inaugural year of the three-year partnership. The money went to fund DEEP, which included territorial certification trainings, mini-grants for diabetes education classes and media campaigns targeting individuals who have diabetes or who are at risk for developing the disease. More than 50 people attended the training classes, and 37 individuals were certified as DEEP trainers territory-wide.
Health professionals, including representatives of the DOH Community Health Clinics, several community-based organizations, AARP, the Department of Human Services Senior Program, and Department of Education school nurses took the certification classes in March. They can now conduct diabetes education classes of their own, teaching Virgin Islanders how to better manage the disease, avoid complications and lead healthier lives.
A second Novo Nordisk-funded project distributed mini-grants of $1,500 to seven people who were certified as DEEP trainers. Those grant recipients used the money to buy teaching aids, materials and supplies for eight-week diabetes classes they would conduct three times per year.
The first year's mini-grant recipients on St. Croix are Myrtle Rogers (Seventh-day Adventist Church), Judy Anne Ross (Frederiksted Health Center) and Lauroline Shulterbrandt (nurse). The St. Thomas recipients are Marleen Dykhuis (nutritionist), Adeline Williams-Connor, and Cereese N. Lewis-Smith (nurses at the Schneider Regional Medical Center), and Margarita Selkridge (church).
A third project funded by Novo Nordisk's donation enabled the launching of various media campaigns focusing on individuals with diabetes and those at risk of developing the disease. The campaigns: “Managing Diabetes: It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It” and “More than 50 Ways to Prevent Diabetes” directly talk to those at risk through print, radio, TV and cinema public service announcements showing Virgin Islanders managing or preventing diabetes by eating healthy and increasing their physical activity levels.
Mini-grant applications for the second year of the program were distributed to those present at the last meeting.