By Anaïs Bailly-Mompoint, LMSW

Think fast, what’s your A1c percentage? Unable to answer that question from the top of your head? Perhaps you have no idea what I’m referring to. You may need to know that information more than you think as it can help you from becoming another statistic! No, I am not trying to scare you, but rather hoping to get you to focus on a rampant disease that is corroding our communities.

Last week I mentioned the various health and social issues competing for our attention and the month of April holds quite a few. Thus, as part of National Minority Health Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at diabetes—a disease that leads to $245 billion in health care costs!

The fact is, diabetes affects almost 30 million people in the U.S. This accounts for a total of 9.3 percent of the population, including both children and adults. Narrow it down to NYC, and that number adds up to more than 675,000 people currently living with this disease. Before you dismiss the stats because you were hoping to find more ways to cut the inches around your waistline while still eating the foods you love, keep in mind that more than 86 million people are pre-diabetic, with many of them being unaware. Again, not a scare tactic, but a reality check!

“It’s complex to live with diabetes,” states Dr. Susan Beane, M.D., Vice President and Medical Director of Healthfirst. A product of South Bronx who has practiced medicine for almost 30 years with a passion for helping urban communities in particular, Dr. Beane acknowledges the increasing numbers of people of color developing diabetes. The number of Type II diabetes is almost twice higher within the Black community and affects a growing trend in pregnant women and children.

Perhaps you’re like me and it’s been hard for you to differentiate between Type I and Type II diabetes. Simply put, Type I diabetes is when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Type II affects the way the “body processes blood sugar (glucose).” Even simpler, the latter is completely preventable.

To bring awareness to this epidemic, Healthfirst, a nonprofit health insurance company, is presenting a free community event open to the public on Saturday, April 30. Hosted by the American Diabetes Association, the Expo will be held from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and will have “health screenings, useful resources, cooking demonstrations, live fitness experts and more.” To ensure attendees get the most of the event, translators will be present to ensure language and cultural barriers do not continue to prevent people from receiving information and care. Among the Healthfirst team who is looking forward to translating and helping in any way possible, is Medicare Marketing Coordinator, Pierre Casseus. A native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Casseus notes that more than 6 percent of the Haitian-American community have Type 2 diabetes. With NYC being one of the top cities with the largest population of Haitian immigrants, it is a matter one cannot ignore.

With these alarming statistics, what is one to do, especially if diabetes is already part of your life? “Lots of self-management” advises Dr. Beane. It starts with diet and exercise, refraining from alcohol and tobacco and staying informed. Add a “can-do attitude” and “family support,” and you’ve got a personal prescription from Dr. Beane in managing your life with diabetes—or any other ailments for that matter if I might add!

If you or someone you know is unable to attend this particular event, the organization—already serving close to 1.2 million people in New York City and Long Island—holds many other events throughout the year in regards to better health as education is among its top priorities. Additionally, Healthfirst team members are readily available to assist you with questions/concerns you may have, including how to obtain health insurance and resources for better living.

“Healthcare isn’t just between the patient and the doctor; it goes beyond that. It’s about the whole person” remarks Healthfirst Spokesperson Bill McCann. So start today by getting your numbers and taking yet another step towards holistic living. It will be one better decision that you won’t regret!

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