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Raising awareness of diabetes in NJ

Senate President Steve Sweeney

By Senator Steve Sweeney

Diabetes, while treatable, is a serious disease that can have devastating long-term effects. Each of us knows someone — whether it’s a parent, child or friend — who must deal day in and day out with the struggle to eat right, exercise, and maintain quality blood sugar levels to stay healthy. In my case, that person is me.

I’ve lived with diabetes for years, and while I take great pains to care for myself properly, I know how difficult it can be.

New Jerseyans are no strangers to the impact of diabetes. Providing Access to Healthy Solutions, an initiative led by the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School, has released an insightful and action-oriented report on the landscape of Type 2 diabetes in New Jersey. It showed that, based on the state’s diabetes prevalence, about 700,000 individuals live with the disease. Many others are at risk for developing diabetes, and at a young age.

The fact is New Jersey ranks #3 in the nation for obesity among low-income children ages two to five, of whom 16.6% are obese, predisposing them to a diabetes diagnosis in their future. The report – An Analysis of New Jersey’s Opportunities to Enhance Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes – serves as a welcomed tool to create collaborative efforts and implement health and lifestyle prevention strategies that address type 2 diabetes here in New Jersey.

More than 50 New Jersey stakeholders from government and community-based organizations were interviewed over the past 18 months to compile the report. And, over 50 individuals from those organizations and others turned out yesterday at the New Jersey Diabetes Leadership Forum, held at the Trenton War Memorial, to help review the report findings and strategize on efforts to help our communities.

But it is not enough to just talk about what can be done, action must be taken, and taken soon.

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 and enhancing care coordination for Medicaid/Family Care enrollees. These recommendations are all actionable and achievable for many of our communities, but it is only through the collective actions of our community and government leaders that we can move forward to make a difference and save lives.

Read the Senator’s editorial in the Burlington County Times here.