How North Country doctors are working to put a dent in diabetes

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:33 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - More than 37 million people are living with diabetes in the country and 96 million have prediabetes. In New York’s North Country, health care professionals are teaming up to try to cut the numbers in our region.

“If you ask my doctor, he will tell you it’s a miracle I’m standing here today,” Morgan Thomas said.

Thomas is 22 and living with Type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed at the young age of 8 months old.

“I have to have tight regulations on my blood sugar or else I could experience serious damage to my body and face serious complications in the long run,” Thomas said.

Thomas bears a story similar to thousands of adults in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties currently living with the disease.

“We need to do so much more and in the North Country we are,” said Dr. Wouter Rietsema, the vice president of CVPH.

Rietsema is the chief medical officer of the Adirondacks Accountable Care Organization, which partners with health care professionals from Glens Falls up to the Canadian border. Their goal is to try to improve health care and health care costs in the region.

This winter, they started a multiyear program focusing on all things diabetes.

“We know poor control of diabetes leads to significant other diseases: heart disease, kidney disease, loss of vision, amputation... disability and mortality,” Rietsema said.

The hospital says its concerns lay with diabetes, prediabetes and childhood obesity that could lead to diabetes. Doctors worry about the number of people living with the disease who don’t know it.

“It would shock you how many people were walking around with diabetes that don’t know it,” Rietsema said.

The organization hopes to collaborate with available resources to offer better care, education and management.

“Let’s take that energy, let’s take that collaboration and let’s work together. This summer we will host a summit,” Rietsema said.

The doctor says the program is pairing up with the local health department for the summit.

Rietsema says lessons learned during the vaccine rollout about doing more with less will be the blueprints for how to get information and education out to the masses: “How can we leverage our efforts to get more out of less.”

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