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‘We’re limited if we’re not healthy’: SOAR hosts Diabetes Symposium

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 4:17 PM EDT
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Shaping Our Appalachian Region is currently focused on sharing information about regional healthcare initiatives.

The SOAR Health Provider Diabetes Symposium kicked off Monday morning, bringing healthcare providers, students, and other interested viewers into an online meeting space to discuss diabetes in the mountains. The symposium covers topics ranging from where diabetes intersects with COVID-19, to how to diagnose and assess diabetes, as well as how to manage the diagnosis from both a healthcare and patient perspective.

Dr. Sathya Krishnasamy, Associate Professor at the University of Louisville, kicked off the event to show connections between COVID-19 and diabetes, discuss the advantages and challenges of virtual care, and touch on diabetes in pregnancy care.

From obesity concerns to mental health impact, doctors in the meeting discussed the importance of consistent and careful action in caring for Type 2 diabetes, as well as the delicacies of caring for patients who have the diagnosis- sharing ways to encourage and support without judging and berating.

Congressman Hal Rogers, one of the speakers during the event, shared his journey with diabetes.

“I have Type 2 diabetes. So this issue is very personal to me and I fully understand the importance of educating, trading, and preventing diabetes in our region,” said Congressman Rogers.

Rogers said he was able to manage his diabetes by making more responsible choices in health and exercise. But, he said, it is also important for others to be working together as a region to continue the conversation.

“The hospitals and clinics have been champions on the ground for years. But we certainly have room to expand those efforts throughout our communities,” Rogers said. “And that’s what we aim to achieve through today’s event.”

According to Gov. Andy Beshear, who also spoke during the event, the pandemic brought to light some of the issues with healthcare barriers in the commonwealth, including issues for patients with diabetes.

“The key is to equipping our rural healthcare providers with the tools needed to deliver education, support, and other self-care behavior change strategies to those most at-risk,” said Gov. Beshear. “I know we can do it. This past year, we’ve proved that we’re capable of anything.”

Beshear said his administration is working to address the issues and help aid in the efforts to create a healthier Kentucky. Those efforts, he said, start with getting the invested parties together using platforms like the symposium.

SOAR Executive Director Colby Hall agrees. He said the organization is focused on a healthier region because that is what it takes to keep the workforce strong and the communities thriving.

“It really ties into everything,” Hall said. “Our workforce- our people- it’s our greatest asset. You know, we are very smart, we’re dedicated, resilient. But we’re limited if we’re not healthy.”

Hall said the efforts of the partners involved in Monday’s event, from the speakers to the attendees, prove that there is an opportunity for the region to move forward together.

“I think today just proved that point that it’s going to take all of us. Because nobody’s gonna do it for us,” Hall said. “We’ve got to find a way to come together. To pull our efforts together.”

While those involved said community support and education is a large piece of the puzzle, self-advocacy is also important. From diet to daily exercise, those with Type 2 diabetes can access different resources to help find a balance. And, according to Hall, the region is uniquely equipped to help.

“We’re blessed to have these mountains and trails and rivers and lakes. Now we just got to use them,” he said. “Any other place across the country that has these types of natural assets are some of the healthiest places in the world. So, let’s get out there and we’ve just gotta make it happen.”

Speakers during the event said it is important not to take for granted the big power of small changes. They said gradually making better choices each day inches people closer to their healthiest possible futures.

The event was sponsored by SOAR, the Kentucky River Health Consortium, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Kentucky Public Health, and UPIKE, with many local healthcare workers, creators, and educators taking part in the conversation. A full list of those is available on the event agenda.

The recording will also be posted on the SOAR website for future reference.

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