Dallas, TX – Baylor and Dallas just opened the city's first health clinic built exclusively to fight diabetes in South Dallas. Nationally, the disease has become an epidemic, and can kill. But it can be controlled. First though, many patients must find out they have it. KERA's Bill Zeeble has more
The Juanita Craft Recreation Center in southern Dallas, near Fair Park, has just undergone a $15 million makeover. The city and non-profit Baylor Health Care System partnered to reach patients with diabetes. Baylor's Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Paul Convery, says the clinic should make it easy for those in need to get here.
Doctor Paul Convery, Baylor Chief Medical Officer: We picked this community because, demographically, this is the sickest community in Dallas in terms of incidence of disease and in terms of hospital usage. And it's also the poorest community, and it's the most underserved community. So if you say worst and greatest need, its right here.
The most prevalent type 2 Diabetes affects nearly 10 percent of the population, and especially strikes those who are overweight and inactive. It affects all ages. It strikes African Americans and Hispanics in even higher numbers. Addressing the crowd for the clinic's opening, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said complications can be devastating.
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert: You see the loss of a limb, loss of eyesight, you see the loss of a kidney and then you see the loss of a life. We can all do more by simply making our community healthier, that's what this center is all about.
Pastor Henry Green, with the Community Outreach Mission Baptist Church, right next door, considers himself lucky, blessed, or both. He was diagnosed with diabetes 7 years ago, but had insurance, so treatment and education were covered. He already knew he had to make changes in his diet, and add exercise to his life. His father died from diabetic complications. His grandmother and sisters have diabetes. But Green didn't want to take insulin, so followed doctor's orders. Over several months, his soaring blood sugar levels fell, and the number of pills prescribed took were reduced.
Green: So he took me off 3 and put me on 2 and then from 2 to one and then from one to nothing on diet and exercise. so I know it works, because it worked for me.
Green's confident this clinic will meet a huge community need. He says people here want to make changes, once diagnosed with diabetes. Now, he says, they'll easily get information they can count on, in their neighborhood.
Green: 806 116 People don't tend to trust people they don't know, even doctors. To leave your neighborhood, go someplace else and have somebody tell you something it's more of a fear than a commitment. There's a desire, "I want this I need this." But getting to the facility, the treatment, the education process, getting TO the medicine is the biggest problem.
Now, says Pastor Green, that problem's eliminated. Baylor expects the clinic will serve 20,000 to 30,000 people a year. It'll spend $5 million annually to run it. But Baylor's Convery says better to spend the money on prevention and early treatment in the community, than spend it in the hospital's emergency room, on patients who didn't know they had diabetes.