Diabetes info, tests provided by CARE

While their parents had their blood sugar tested in the glass-walled Rose Center yesterday, two young girls played Dance Dance Revolution to learn about exercise as part of Diabetes Awareness Day.

The event — organized by the newly-formed Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) — was held for the first time this year to help educate the public about diabetes as part of Diabetes Awareness Month. The program, which took place at the Dixwell-Yale University Community Learning Center, featured informational booths, a healthy-cooking demonstration, blood-sugar testing and panels of experts who spoke on the prevention and management of diabetes.

During Diabetes Awareness Day, organizers combine informational booths with child-friendly entertainment.
Grant Smith
During Diabetes Awareness Day, organizers combine informational booths with child-friendly entertainment.

“This is exactly the event we wanted to have,” CARE director and Yale School of Public Health professor Jeannette Ickovics said. “Obesity is spreading so rapidly here and worldwide, and we’re providing people with information. Our hope is that over time we can work collaboratively to improve their health on a deeper level.”

The station with Dance Dance Revolution, a playstation video game, was part of an educational booth emphasizing the importance of exercise in preventing diabetes.

Planning for the event — which included finding sponsors and doing publicity — began in September, Ickovics said.

Although planners had limited time to put together the various activities, event coordinator Alycia Santilli said she was pleased with how the day turned out.

Santilli said it would have been helpful to have more than just two months time to prepare — both in recruiting sponsors and publicizing.

CARE Community Outreach Coordinator Maurice Williams said he worked to publicize the event through various forms of media, including flyers, radio, television and door-to-door promotion.

But he said he thinks the publicity would have been more effective if he had more time to get the word out. And New Haven resident Barbara Russell said she thinks more posters and advertising would have increased awareness.

Some guests said the educational aspect of diabetes outreach should have focused more heavily on children.

Cristine Burruss, a New Haven resident and community-health advisor, said particular attention needs to be paid to kids, many of whom do not understand diabetes. She said children often perceive diabetes as contagious and ostracize peers who have the disease.

Williams, who is diabetic, also said it is important to educate children, since diabetes can be prevented if young children’s habits are monitored and changed.

“When I was diagnosed with diabetes six years ago, it was a huge culture shock,” Williams said. “I want to help younger people, because if they don’t have good health, they can’t fully enjoy life or be vibrant.”

While young people did attend the event, which was held on a school holiday, few seemed to pay much attention to any of the educational materials.

Some thronged around a clown doing face paint and others played DDR, while still others congregated around the food table, which featured choices selected by a dietician. When Shakira Russell, 8, was asked whether she thought she had learned anything from the event, her answer was a shy “no.”

But other young people said they found the event educational.

“I didn’t know that my heritage could be an issue with getting diabetes,” said Shalonda Bradley, 14, who said she learned that diabetes disproportionately affects people of color. “I’m going to cut my rate of eating. No more seconds!”

Coordinators said they do not yet have any plans to repeat the event next year.

CARE is a part of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation — an organization that supports clinical and translational research across the Yale School of Medicine.

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