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Health groups provide support

December 05, 2000

Health groups provide support



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Emotional and spiritual support can be almost as important as education and medicine for many diabetes patients, so three local institutions have teamed to provide a new avenue of help.

"We meet with people for one to two hours of basic diabetes education, but diabetes is a disease you live with 24 hours a day," said Beverly Horn, a certified diabetes educator with Summit Health. "People need support and care and help in making necessary lifestyle changes."

Wilson College Health Ministries, Chambersburg Hospital and Waynesboro Hospital, both affiliated with Summit Health, teamed up for the new program, Diabetes Life Management Partnership, over the summer, Horn said.

It creates education and support groups for people with diabetes, their families and friends in Franklin County churches and is funded by a grant from Summit Endowment.

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"People need lifestyle, diet and exercise changes and we looked to see who is out there that can help," Horn said. "This community is rich in religious tradition that is fairly active."

So Horn thought of turning to the churches for support. At the same time, Wilson College was initiating its health ministry working through local churches, so they decided to pair up.

"What we are initially looking at is providing basic information about how to manage diabetes through diet, exercise and medicine and recognizing emotional and spiritual components and putting all of these together," she said.

The need for such an outlet is growing, Horn said, with 20 percent of all discharges from Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals diabetes-related. About 6,000 county residents have diabetes.

As the population of Franklin County ages, diabetes will become even more common because increasing age is a risk factor for the disease. Other risk factors include being significantly overweight and getting little physical activity.

The Wilson Health Ministry met with pastors from several local churches. First United Methodist Church in Chambersburg, King Street United Brethren Church in Chambersburg and Church of the Brethren in Greencastle are the first three to sign on, Horn said.

Parish nurses have since attended a diabetes seminar and care teams that will provide education and spiritual support have been set up.

Many members of the care teams are diabetics or spouses or family members of diabetics who can share their experiences with others.

The first wave of the monthly meetings were held in November and attracted a total of 31 people at the three churches, Horn said.

"We're looking to show this kind of supportive relationship will help people take better care of themselves," Horn said.

As part of the program, a certified diabetes nurse educator will work with each diabetic person to design a plan for self-managing the disease.

Participants' health will be monitored over the year with blood sugar tests and other medical tests to determine if the program is having any effect, Horn said.

Anyone interested in the program may contact Nancy Allison, program coordinator at Wilson College, at 717-262-2045.

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