/PRNewswire/ -- Former Atlanta Hawks forward and Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins today (November 9) urged older adults in Georgia, especially those ages 65 and older, to learn more about diabetes, its risk factors and get screened for this very serious disease. Wilkins joined with other city and community leaders – including Rep. John Lewis, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and City Council Member Michael Julian Bond – and more than 100 older adults to launch "Get a Jump on Diabetes," an initiative of the Medicare Diabetes Screening Project (MDSP).
"I'm teaming up with the MDSP to help spread the word about the importance of screening, detection and prevention of diabetes," said Wilkins. "My mom, aunt and I all have diabetes, so I understand how serious this disease can be. But if you can get a jump on diabetes by getting screened, you can take steps to prevent or control diabetes."
The goal of MDSP is to help inform older adults about the importance of diabetes screening, detection and early prevention by taking advantage of the Medicare's free diabetes screening benefit. In collaboration with the American Diabetes Association, the Healthcare Leadership Council, the Atlanta Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging, Grady Health System, the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians, the Regional Council of Churches of Atlanta, Novo Nordisk, Inc. and more than 20 other Georgia-based organizations, the MDSP is now launching in Atlanta after successfully working since 2007 in Columbus, Macon, Savannah and other cities in Georgia and in other parts of the country to raise awareness about diabetes screening for Medicare beneficiaries.
"Diabetes is a national epidemic, but has a significant impact in Georgia, affecting far too many of our residents, especially people of color and older adults. The good news is that diabetes can be prevented and those diagnosed with the disease are able to live long healthy lives," said Congressman John Lewis (D-5th) who provided opening remarks during today's event.
Undiagnosed diabetes and pre-diabetes are significant problems among adults ages 65 and older in Georgia, with more than 150,000 with undiagnosed diabetes and an additional 450,000 with pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are above normal, but not yet in the range for diabetes, and when there may still be time to prevent or delay disease onset.
Medicare covers free, annual diabetes screening for beneficiaries 65 and older who have one risk factor for diabetes: overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of diabetes, or history of diabetes during pregnancy. There is no co-pay or deductible for the screening. Despite the high numbers of people with undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes only 9 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in Georgia were screened in 2008 according to Medicare data.
City Council President Mitchell reinforced diabetes' impact on the Atlanta community. "I've seen close-up the devastation that diabetes can cause, and I know it doesn't have to happen," said City Council President Mitchell. "Undiagnosed diabetes and pre-diabetes remain significant problems in the state of Georgia. That's why all adults ages 65 and older should take that first step on the road to better health by asking their doctors or health care providers about the Medicare screenings."
Local advocates, including Dr. John Johnson, a primary care physician in the Atlanta area and Cathie Berger of the Atlanta Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging, answered questions about screening, detection and the importance of prevention and treatment, while encouraging older adults to share this message with other older adults in their communities. Mary Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, moderated the discussion.
"The Atlanta Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging will pick up the ball from Dominique and run with it into next year, continuing the good work that's beginning right here, today," said Cathie Berger, Director, Atlanta Regional Commission/Aging Service Division. "As sponsor of metro Atlanta RSVP, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, ARC will turn to our volunteers from the RSVP Senior Corps to be ambassadors in their communities, delivering messages about diabetes and the Medicare diabetes screening benefits to older adults throughout the Atlanta area. The volunteers will help deliver the message that the essential first step for prevention is screening."
Today's event is one example of how the MDSP is working with city officials, senior centers, churches, and other community-based organizations to promote use of Medicare's benefits for diabetes screening. Wilkins and the MDSP are also partnering with the Atlanta Hawks and will be distributing information about the free Medicare diabetes screening benefit during the November 12th and 14th Hawks home games at Philips Arena.
About the Medicare Screening Project
The Medicare Diabetes Screening Project in Atlanta is a community-based effort to reach and motivate seniors who have undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes, and encourage them to see their doctors or other health care providers, and take advantage of the free diabetes screening benefits offered by Medicare. Attached is a list of Georgia organizations involved with the MDSP "Get a Jump on Diabetes" campaign. To learn more, visit www.screenfordiabetes.org.
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