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Opinion: Fighting type 2 diabetes and obesity in the local area

April 1, 2014 | Community News

Originally published in The Daily Journal

Last week, the 2014 New Jersey state report titled “Providing Access to Healthy Solutions  — An Analysis of New Jersey’s Opportunities to Enhance Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes” was released.

The report, written by PATHS (Providing Access to Healthy Solutions), an initiative led by the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI), provides an overview of the landscape of type 2 diabetes in New Jersey, where approximately 700,000 individuals live with the disease and many others are at risk for developing it, including children. New Jersey ranks No. 3 in the nation for obesity among low-income children ages 2 to 5, of whom 16.6 percent are obese. In Cumberland County, the prevalence of obesity is 33.4 percent. These children are at greater risk of receiving a diabetes diagnosis in their future. This new report is a welcome look at how government and community agencies can come together to implement health care and prevention strategies that address type 2 diabetes in New Jersey.

Government and community-based organizations were interviewed over 18 months to obtain information for inclusion in the report. Last week, individuals from those organizations attended the New Jersey Diabetes Leadership Forum at the Trenton War Memorial to discuss the report’s findings and how we can work together to make an impact and change the tide of diabetes.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney spoke during the forum on the need for collaboration as well as policy change to create healthier communities. Christene Dewitt-Parker, coordinator for School Health at the New Jersey Department of Education, spoke about the role of our schools and the need to help students prevent and manage diabetes. There were many other guest speakers who provided great insights and promise in the area of preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

In Vineland, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland and its partners work together to increase access to affordable, healthy foods and safe places for residents to be active. These partners have created the following outcomes:

NJPHK-Vineland, the Vineland Health Department and Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA got five Vineland corner stores and restaurants to increase the availability of fresh produce and other healthy food choices in their establishments by implementing the Food Trust’s Healthy Corner Store Toolkit.

•   NJPHK-Vineland partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Vineland Public School District to strengthen the school’s wellness policy, also forming a Wellness Council. Landis Intermediate won the Alliance’s Bronze award last year, which recognizes schools for creating healthier menu options. This year Landis is on Elementary will qualify for bronze.

•  Vineland High School added two menu items made with Jersey-grown fresh produce, resulting from the collaboration of NJPHK-Vineland, the city of Vineland Health Department, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Rutgers Food Innovation Center, Vineland Public Schools and food vendor Sodexo.

•   City of Vineland Engineering, Planning Health and Economic Department are working to create bike lanes, crosswalks and share the road signage on Elmer Street and Wood.

•   Healthy Kids Champion worked with schools on the introduction of a new Healthy U — a structured recess program taught during the school day.

New Program:

The Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA has been a community convener to help reduce obesity in children and families in Cumberland County. In February 2014, the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA was selected to facilitate the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program to begin in the spring/summer of this year.

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is a year-long program with 16 weekly sessions followed by 8 monthly sessions. In a relaxed classroom setting, a trained Lifestyle Coach helps participants learn skills that will help them incorporate healthy eating, increasing physical activity, and other behavior changes into their everyday lives. The goals of the program are 7 percent weight loss and an increase in physical activity to 150 minutes per week.

To be eligible for this program, participants must be at least 18 years old with a BMI of 25 or greater and at risk for developing type 2 diabetes or have been diagnosed with prediabetes. Youth under 18 and people diagnosed with diabetes do not qualify. A Y membership is not required for participation.

The PATHS report on New Jersey’s type 2 diabetes issues provides several recommendations, including:

•  Addressing how to make fruits and vegetables affordable to people in many of our low-income communities

•  Helping them gain access to healthy foods in the community and at school.

•  Making communities conducive to healthy, active living; and providing access to diabetes prevention and management services

•  Enhancing care coordination for Medicaid/Family Care enrollees.

Actions taken around these recommendations can truly make a difference in our state and our community. It is time for us to step up our efforts in preventing and managing diabetes in New Jersey, and it starts right here in our community.

Editor’s note: A copy of the full report can be found at

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