Diabetes the topic of six-week course at Elizabethton/Carter County Library

Like many diseases, diabetes is one that requires extensive observation in order to manage, but when the symptoms are not as intense as with a contagious disease like the flu, many might believe there is nothing they can do to stop it. Health professionals in Carter County are hoping to change that perception.

The Elizabethton/Carter County Library has been at work since the dawn of 2019 hosting seminars on the seriousness of diabetes, what it is and how to treat it. Their next session on Monday, Feb. 11, will be session five out of six.

“We had a lot of clients asking about a class like this several months ago, and so we started coming up with a list of topics to talk about,” Adult Services Director Maryann Owen said. “It kind of fell on the back burner for a while, but we started it back up this year.”

Owen described the classes as “soft information” sessions, tailored as if they are giving the information to people who are recently receiving the diagnosis.

“A lot of people who hear the news shut it out or freeze up,” she said. “They think there is nothing they can do about it.”

She said they wanted to show the numbers associated with diabetes and ways to treat the disease, taking “baby steps” that allow participants to gradually process the information.

This was the mindset that led each session to be two hours long, as Owen said they wanted to provide time for participants to ask questions to the two dieticians from Ballad Health who teach the classes.

Owen said every time she turns on the TV or reads about it, she sees the diabetes numbers rising.

“You hear all the time about COPD and diabetes, and I think we have high numbers of those in Carter County,” Owen said. “We do not want generational diabetes.”

By “generational diabetes,” she said she is referring to how the lifestyles of those with the disease carry over to their children, who develop diabetes as a result.

According to datausa.io, a data collection service hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a variety of other organizations, Carter County had a diabetes prevalence rate of 14.2 percent, roughly 3 percent below Cumberland County’s 18.2 percent, the state’s highest rate.

“These living environments become the norm, so people think there is nothing they can do,” Owen said.

In addition to the two remaining courses, the library will also host a “Diabetes 101” course on Wednesday, Feb. 27m from 1 to 3 p.m., which will take a look at the clinical side of diabetes, including how to test blood sugar and how to ask their doctors about diabetes-related topics.

“If you do not manage a disease well, you end up in the doctor’s office or the hospital more often,” Owen said. “A lot of classes like these are held all the way in Johnson City or much farther away. We get to have them right here with all the materials they will need.”

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