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Four Pitt County Health Department employees were recognized for their local implementation of innovative chronic disease prevention programs at the National County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Conference held in July in Orlando, Florida. Public Health Educators Tiffany Thigpen, Blair Savoca, Laquelia Lewis and Allison Swart were selected to present two evidence-based interventions that have been successfully implemented in Pitt and neighboring counties. These interventions are designed to help decrease the prevalence of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, which are all leading causes of death in Pitt County and North Carolina, as well as Nationwide.
Proper management of hypertension (high blood pressure) can prevent heart disease and stroke. Hypertension can weaken and damage coronary arteries and the heart muscle causing heart disease and can also weaken and damage blood vessels in the brain leading to stroke. Many people do not realize they have hypertension because it often has no warning signs. Hypertension can be a deadly disease if left untreated. One heart disease and stroke prevention intervention highlighted at the conference is the Community Self-Monitoring Blood Pressure Station. Blood pressure monitors are not a covered cost under most insurance plans, thus making it difficult for many people to access them. Many people often rely on their doctor’s office or hospital as their only source of blood pressure monitoring; however, people with hypertension should monitor their blood pressure frequently. The installation of a community blood pressure cart equipped with a blood pressure monitor, brochures, instructions, and wallet cards at the Shepherd Memorial Library and Carver Library offers residents in Pitt County the opportunity to monitor their own blood pressures and report any abnormal numbers to their healthcare provider for care and management. The Community Self-Monitoring Blood Pressure station is free for the public to use during the libraries’ hours of operation. This initiative was made possible by grant funds from the NC Department of Health and Human Services and the Vidant Health Foundation.
The second initiative featured at the conference is the NC Minority Diabetes Prevention Program (NC MDPP). Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 84 million American adults—more than 1 out of 3 have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, 90% do not know they have it. Prediabetes puts one at increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke. In Pitt County, almost 1 in every 5 people has prediabetes or diabetes. With both prediabetes and diabetes, lifestyle changes that focus on healthier eating, increased physical activity, stress reduction and coping skills can improve quality of life.
The North Carolina Minority Diabetes Prevention Program (NC MDPP) is funded by the NC Department of Health and Human Services and offers education about prediabetes through an on-going class series in Pitt, Beaufort, Craven, Greene, Wilson, Wayne, Jones, and Lenoir Counties. Using the CDC’s Prevent T2 curriculum, the classes focus on how to make healthy lifestyle changes to lower the risk of developing diabetes. The program is facilitated by a trained Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. Participants learn how to eat healthier, incorporate moderate physical activity and coping skills such as managing stress into their daily lives. Participants will be able to lose 5% to 7% of their weight within the first six months with the tools gained from the program. There are eligibility requirements for this program. After eligibility has been determined, a participant will complete enrollment documents and pay a $25 one-time fee or a scholarship may be provided, which can reduce the cost of the program to as low as $5.
For more information about how to utilize either of these lifesaving evidence-based programs, contact Allison Swart, Health Promotion Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-902-2419.
Pitt County Health Department Health Promotion Team: (pictured left to right) Blair Savoca, Tiffany Thigpen, Allison Swart and Laquelia Lewis.