According to most grocers, Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday in the United States. Interestingly, November is also National Diabetes Month. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it. According to the CDC, diabetes affects about 9 percent of the population. The highest rates of Type 2 diabetes exist in adults 60 and older, people with low socioeconomic status, rural populations and some racial and ethnic groups. Many organizations are working with churches to meet the needs of individuals in the community who need access to diabetes related support.
Misperceptions of Diabetes Often Hinder Care
Type 2 diabetes often has a stigma attached to it. People worry that they may have caused the disease by eating too much sugar and not taking care of themselves. Eating too much sugar is not healthy, but it does not cause diabetes. Being overweight is certainly a risk factor for diabetes, but not everyone who is overweight will get diabetes.
Diabetes is often seen as being not that serious. Many times, people deny their symptoms before being diagnosed. Diabetes is actually responsible for more deaths than breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. Early diagnosis is vital to preventing further complications. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to loss of vision, loss of limbs, kidney failure and more.
Not every diabetic is on insulin. However, many people believe that going on insulin means that you did not manage your diabetes well. Although that might be true in some cases, diabetes is a progressive disease that gets worse as you age. Your body may not be able to produce insulin as well as it did in the early stages of the disease. Insulin can help manage blood glucose levels, which will keep you healthy longer.
It’s said that managing diabetes is not a science, but an art. What works one month may not work the next. Food is just one aspect of keeping blood glucose levels within range. Stress affects blood sugar. A minor infection can make blood glucose levels go high. Diabetes is a difficult disease to live with.
Faith Can Be a Vital Part of Healthcare
Healthcare practitioners are recognizing that faith is vital to healing. Not only does your spiritual faith help you find peace and stability when your health is failing, the faith-based community is where many find support during illness. Diabetes is no different. More communities are recognizing that the church (temple, mosque, etc.) is a great place to address diabetes and teach people about advocating for their health. There are groups in the Bronx, New Orleans, Detroit and more working with congregants.
These programs combine diabetes educations with spiritual values of the church. Many are written for specific denominations and groups to target problems within certain ethnicities or cultures. These programs can help open doors for congregants to getting better healthcare and to finding support while dealing with this chronic condition.
What Is Your Church Doing?
Today’s churches are doing more than simply offering prayer and worship services. Many have exercise groups that encourage the congregation to be healthier. There are a lot of great things happening within spiritual organizations that encourage well-being for their congregants. But we’d like to challenge you to think deeper about your activities and how you can help diabetics navigate daily life and the holidays with their disease.
The holidays are usually packed with festivities and parties. Most organizations have a fellowship following Christmas programs. Does your group have some options that would be suitable for diabetics? Some diabetics can have sugar, but most should be cautious about how much is consumed. Cookies and punch can add up quickly for a diabetic.
Are you treating diabetics without judgment? Take time this November to be more aware about diabetics and how difficult it is to manage blood glucose levels. Talk to members of your church about dealing with their diabetes at church. Find out what you can do differently to make a difference and be more inclusive.