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Hampton resident leads statewide diabetes campaign

New estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and an estimated 79 million U.S. adults have prediabetes.

CDC officials recently reported that about 27 percent of those with diabetes (7 million Americans) do not know they have the disease.

A Hampton resident, Maurice Madden, is leading the charge to change that. Madden is the Georgia Director of the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project (MDSP), a national coalition geared toward promoting diabetes screening and prevention for Medicare recipients.

The project is a partnership among 20 national organizations — including the American Diabetes Association, Healthcare Leadership Council, and Novo Nordisk — that promotes diabetes education among older adults, according to MDSP National Director Jay Hedlund.

Hedlund was tasked with helping build, and manage, MDSP in its campaign efforts to inform people of the free diabetes screening benefit provided through Medicare. He is a consultant to Novo Nordisk, the international diabetes company that finances the MDSP.

Hedlund said MDSP is the result of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which created the free screening benefit, and has been in place since 2005.

"[However], we've found that, even though it's a big screening benefit, the benefit wasn't being used," Hedlund added. "Seventy-two percent of Medicare beneficiaries, ages 65 and older, have diabetes or prediabetes. And most of them are undiagnosed. That's why screening is so important."

Hedlund, who has worked on diabetes issues for the past 12 years, pointed to Georgia MDSP Director Maurice Madden, as one of the campaign's catalysts, with making a positive impression in Georgia.

Madden took charge of MDSP's recent launch in Atlanta, after successful efforts in Columbus, Ga., and other Georgia cities, said Hedlund. Madden's work, he noted, helped increase diabetes screenings 50 percent in Columbus.

"I was charged [as the MDSP Georgia Director] to go around the state of Georgia to get the word out about the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project," said Madden.

Madden said his ties to MDSP were developed through the production of a film, which was sponsored MDSP-partner Novo Nordisk. He became the MDSP Georgia Director in 2008, after he helped launch the awareness campaign for Medicare recipients in Columbus.

Madden is also the founder and president of Millennium Filmworks, Inc., which creates short films about health disparities in the African-American community. The Hampton resident is a graduate of Morehouse College, in Atlanta, where he earned a bachelor's degree in medical illustration and communication.

Madden said he has done three films, including pieces on HIV/AIDS, and Colorectal Cancer. His latest film, The Debilitator, addresses the impact of diabetes, and its complications. It premiered in 2005, on Public Broadcasting Atlanta.

"I have family members that have diabetes," Madden said. "And I lost an uncle, and an aunt, to complications of diabetes. My focus is to educate people about diabetes and its complications, that was my sole objective in creating "The Debilitator."

The CDC projected, in a 2010 study, that as many as 1-in-3 U.S. adults could have diabetes 2050, if current trends continue. The study said groups at higher risk for the disease include African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and some Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Adult diabetes rates, according to the CDC, are 16.1 percent for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 12.6 percent for African-Americans/blacks, 11.8 percent for Hispanics, 8.4 percent for Asian-Americans, and 7.1 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

For adults, ages 65 and older, Medicare may pay for a free diabetes screening, and the patient only needs to have one or two risk factors, like high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, said Madden. Medicare beneficiaries should see their physicians and ask about the free screenings.

To learn more about MDSP, visit the web site at www.screenfordiabetes.org.