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Clayton health officials seeking higher diabetes awareness

Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death for Clayton County residents, according to a spokesman for the county's health department.

Clayton County Board of Health Spokesman Joel Hall explained diabetes falls behind cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory system diseases and parasitic diseases (infections), on the list of top causes of death in the county. And, he added, people are going to local hospitals because of diabetes-related issues at an "alarming" rate.

Between 2005 and 2006, the most recent time period for which the county's health department has data, people made 1,210 visits to emergency rooms because of "uncontrolled" diabetes, according to Hall.

"One of the Board of Health's highest priorities is dealing with hypertension and diabetes," he said. "That is a health problem which is proving to be a significant issue for the Southern Crescent."

As part of its effort to raise awareness, and combat hypertension and diabetes, the local health board's Health Promotions Department is scheduled to host, on Aug. 13, the latest session in an ongoing series of workshops, titled "The Road to Health: How to Prevent or Delay Type 2 Diabetes in Your Community."

The workshop, which will be free to attend, will be held from 9:30 a.m., to 12:30 p.m., at the Clayton County Library System's headquarters branch, at 865 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro. Hall said Clayton health officials will teach workshop participants how to fight diabetes through a variety of steps, including living a more active lifestyle, and making healthier choices about the types of food they eat.

"The purpose of this workshop is to arm residents with information that they can use to battle type 2 diabetes," he said.

Hall said, out of the 1,210 uncontrolled diabetes-related emergency room visits in Clayton County in 2005 and 2006, 877 of those trips were made African-Americans.

Types 2 diabetes, according to the health department's spokesman, is a form of the disease that is "insulin resistant," which means it is harder for the body to get needed insulin. Hall said overweight people tend to have this form of diabetes because "the fat in their bodies interferes with their body's ability to receive insulin."

Some of the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, he added, include blurred vision, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, increased appetite and thirst, and frequent, repetitive cases of illnesses. Those are effects which Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan, the Clayton County District health director, called "extremely debilitating" in a written statement.

"Unlike some chronic diseases, however, people have the ability to do something about type 2 diabetes," she said. "Exercise, healthy eating, and weight control are valuable tools in the fight against this disease. showing people how to do those things, we are helping them regain a level of quality in their lives that they deserve."

Hall said even a small amount of weight loss can help bring the effects of diabetes under control. "One of the things people can do [to fight diabetes] is just reduce their body weight at least five-, to seven-percent," he said. "decreasing their weight that much, they can greatly reduce the complications from type 2 diabetes."

Hall said the Clayton County Board of Health is asking people who are interested in attending the diabetes workshop on Aug. 13 to pre-register, so department officials will know how many attendees to expect. Call (678) 610-7691 to pre-register for the workshop, or to receive more information about the event.