Washington County has highest diabetes death rate in Md.

Health officials aim to curb the problem

March 28, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |
  • Faye Katchur, a registered nurse, confers with Roy Wolf after taking his blood pressure at the Diabetes Expo Monday at Elgin Station in Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Health officials in Washington County are taking steps to curb a diabetes death rate that ranks higher than that of any other county in the state.

From 2007 through 2009, Washington County had an age-adjusted death rate of 36.4 deaths from diabetes per 100,000 people in the population, according to the 2009 Maryland Vital Statistics Report.

That’s about 67 percent higher than the state rate of 21.8.

“The prevalence (of diabetes) is not necessarily as high as some of the other jurisdictions, but the death rate consistently is,” Washington County Health Department spokesman Roderick MacRae said. “We’re not really quite sure why that is.”

Possible factors could include patients waiting too long to seek treatment or not having as much access to care, MacRae said.

To help lower that rate and improve the quality of life for people living with diabetes, the health department plans to work with Meritus Health to develop a voluntary diabetes registry for people who want case management help in managing their diabetes, MacRae said.

A case management program that includes home visits from nurses is already offered for low-income, disabled seniors through the Washington County Commission on Aging.

The health department also offers a nutrition and exercise program called STOP, or Strategies to Overcome Pre-diabetes, MacRae said. The phone number for that program is 240-313-3360.

MacRae and registered dietitian Lisa McCoy made a presentation to the Washington County Commissioners March 22 in observance of Diabetes Alert Day, which kicks off a monthlong national campaign by the American Diabetes Association.

From March 22 to April 22, the association is rallying to have 1 million people across the nation take its diabetes risk test, a series of questions for determining one’s chances for type 2 or pre-diabetes.

Locally, officials are promoting a 27-page Diabetes Resource Guide developed by a local committee that includes a directory of care and support services in Washington County.

Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood-glucose levels resulting from defects in the body’s ability to produce or use the hormone insulin. It can cause problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney damage, strokes, blindness and lower-limb amputations, McCoy said.

Almost one in 10 Washington County residents — 9.6 percent — has been told by a doctor that they have diabetes, according to aggregate data from 2004 to 2008 from the Maryland Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Statewide, 7.9 percent had been told they had diabetes, BRFSS data shows.

On the Web

Take the diabetes risk test at


Diabetes Resource Guide: Go to and click on Diabetes Resource Guide under Quick Links.

Jurisdictions with the highest age-adjusted diabetes death rates per 100,000 population from diabetes, 2007-09:

  • Washington County — 36.4
  • Charles County — 34.1
  • Baltimore City — 31.7
  • Prince George’s County — 31.4
  • Cecil County — 26.9

Source: Maryland Vital Statistics Report, 2009
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