Three major downstate hospital complexes announced a cooperative effort to combat diabetes and breast cancer Wednesday.
The launch of hospitals’ initiative was part of a day filled with announcements about efforts to improve the health of Delawareans, particularly Sussex Countians.
The goal is to change attitudes and raise awareness about health issues in Delaware. “I think people are ready for this,” said Megan Williams, director of population health for Beebe Medical Center. “I think we’re all sick of being sick.”
The three medical centers: Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Nanticoke Health Services in Seaford and Bayhealth Medical Center (Milford Memorial and Kent General) announced their new diabetes and breast cancer programs in Georgetown.
For diabetes, there will be a one-year pilot program involving ten primary care practices, including La Red in Georgetown. That pilot program has a goal of increasing the number of patients who complete testing to show average blood sugar levels over the last three months. The test is called HgbA1C.
Additionally, the diabetes program aims to increase attendance and completion of diabetes self-management and education programs.
Hospital officials indicated that, according to Delaware Department of Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health, the diabetes rate in Sussex County rose from 9.9 percent in 2008 to 11.6 percent in 2010. The percentage of overweight or obese people in Sussex County has risen to 69.8 percent of the population. Being obsese to overweight increases the the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
For breast cancer, a mammography initiative will focus on education and awareness for minority women, particularly those who are aged 40 and over with Medicare insurance. The program will also focus heavily on helping uninsured women.
Sussex County has an incidence of breast cancer of 128.3 cases per 100,000 women, a rate higher than the national average. From 2003 to 2007, there were 3,083 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in Delaware. Statistics show that 166 women died from breast cancer.
The new programs stem from the “Healthier Sussex County Task Force” the three hospitals formed a last fall to identify ways to work together toward common goals. Administrators said they chose diabetes and breast cancer because they are two health issues where they feel they can make a difference quickly. “[They are areas] we could really do something about,” said Steve Rose, the president and CEO of Nanticoke Health Services.
“We really believe this is an excellent first step,” said Jeff Fried, the CEO and president of Beebe Medical Center.
“It really is historic,” said Williams, who couldn’t say where the task force will turn its attention next, but noted, “there is a lot of low hanging fruit out there.”
Wednesday’s hospital announcement followed another event in Georgetown held by Walkable Bikeable Delaware. Representatives of Sussex Outdoors, state legislators, the Executive Director of Bike Delaware, Delaware Greenways, Sussex County Council President Mike Vincent and others joined to discuss what they called “an exciting new level of collaboration.”
Just over $13 million of funding in the just-passed Bond Bill will fund numerous trail and park improvements across Delaware like the Junction and Breakwater Trail between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
That funding provided the backdrop for a call to Delawareans to become more active and healthy.
“We are in a health care crisis in this country,” said Sussex County Manager of Nemours Health and Prevention Services John Hollis.
Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson said that Sussex County spends $8 million per year on insurance premium costs. Others added that an unhealthy Delaware costs more in health care and more in insurance premiums.
Promoting biking and other healthy activities can also mean money in the bank, according to Carol Everhart, the executive director of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce.
She noted that the local Seashore Striders Running Club has already attracted record numbers of runners in six of nine races this year. “It’s economic development as well as being healthy,” she said.
“We need people to come together and keep an eye on the prize. The prize is a healthy, vibrant Delaware,” Hollis said.
“The end result will be a healthier and happier Delaware,” said Chazz Salkin, the Director of Delaware’s Division of State Parks.