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Health leaders work to expand programs for diabetics

Indiana Statehouse. (WISH Photo, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Health leaders addressed state lawmakers Wednesday about the daily fight they face on diabetes, which affects half a million Hoosiers.

They’re hoping to get more help from the state to expand programs they say are making a difference.

Wednesday afternoon kicked off a state summer study on public health. The committee, made up mostly of lawmakers, listened as health leaders talked about the daily fight and how they say the state can help.

It’s an everyday battle for many to stay healthy. That fight could be life-or-death for Hoosiers suffering from diabetes, the number seven killer in Indiana.

“Our people are comfortable with this condition and somehow we’ve got to agitate them,” said Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis.

The Indiana State Department of Health said many of those have type-2 diabetes, which stems from obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle.

ISDH said two-thirds of adult Hoosiers are overweight or obese.

“All of this points to the lack of control of diabetes in Indiana,” said Ann Alley from ISDH.

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of stroke, kidney disease and high blood pressure and ISDH said that can lead to a burden on the state from a high number of hospitalizations and emergency visits.

It can also be costly to the patient. The American Heart Association said the average amount spent per year on care related to diabetes is about $8,000.

Lawmakers listened to health experts and one of their own. Rep. Summers has diabetes.

“I’m a long way from being where I should be as far as my weight is concerned, but I’m working on it,” she said.

There are resources around the state to help people struggling to adopt a healthy lifestyle. The YMCA and others offer the Diabetes Prevention Program, a year-long program aiming for Hoosiers to lose seven percent of their weight with better eating and simple exercise. It’s helped thousands of Hoosiers.

“Prevention works. It works and it’s available in the community,” said Anne Graves, who is the director of healthy living initiatives at the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis.

Rep. Summers has a request for her colleagues: more programs like that.

“I need more boots on the ground,” she said.

Graves said this is a chance to help many Hoosiers in need and others who may not know they need it.

“There’s an opportunity for more education of individuals in the community. I think there’s an opportunity for everyone to have access to these programs,” Graves said.

The committee will meet two more times this year, focusing on other areas of public health.

In October, they’ll discuss potential changes needed to state law if federal law changes regarding health care.

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