Louisiana joins 'diabetes belt'

By Elizabeth Temple - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – Louisiana's latest dubious title: part of the Diabetes Belt.  The belt stretches over much of the Deep South with county-by-county maps showing portions of the bayou state with greater than 11% of the population suffering from diabetes. Calcasieu Community Clinic mirrors state statistics saying about 9% of their patients have diabetes.

"Out of the 9% who have diabetes, 71% of those patients also have hypertension," explained Kayla Rigney, Executive Director of the clinic.

The study found 90% of diabetes cases are type 2, often called adult-onset diabetes, but that common name may not always apply.

"We're seeing type 2 diabetes earlier and earlier onset," said Tiffany Soileau, Clinic Coordinator.

Recently dubbed the laziest state by BusinessWeek, Louisiana must rely on healthcare systems to pick up the slack on the growing number of diabetes patients. Rigney emphasizes some younger patients fall through the cracks after they turn 19.

"If they are out living and working in our community and they have been living with diabetes…and they do need that extra help in keeping it under control, they can come here. They may not qualify for the regular Medicaid program at that time," said Rigney.

Keeping track of blood sugar levels everyday is essential to managing the disease, but it can also be pricey.

"Sometimes you can get glucometers free through the companies that make them. The reason why they do that is so that you'll buy their strips and sometimes those strips go from $40 to $60 a month."

The Calcasieu Community Clinic will start offering dietary advice and education for diabetics. They also plan to help reduce the cost of the glucometer strips for those that apply. To help the clinic continue to serve the working un-insured in Southwest Louisiana you can attend this year's "A Black Tie Affair" on April 1, 2011. Go to www.ablacktieaffair.org for more information and to purchase tickets.

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