Hoke County Community Foundation helps tackle local diabetes challenge

Diabetes is in the news for reaching epidemic proportions across the United States. North Carolina’s population is of course not immune to the health challenges this chronic disease presents. Hoke County in particular has one of the highest diabetes rates in the state. 

While only about 47,000 people live in this rural county, an extremely high percentage of the Hoke populace carries the burden of this disease. It’s attributable to a high number of deaths annually, and instances of kidney disease, visual impairment, tooth decay and other serious health problems are also alarming, according to state healthcare experts.

The numbers in Hoke County have become so dramatic that community leaders and healthcare professionals alike have come together to help tackle the problem.

“When our advisory board in Hoke started looking at the issues that we needed to help address, this one rose to the top,” said John Jordan, affiliate board president.

The Hoke County Community Foundation is serving as convener, bringing together leadership from various sectors that have a vested interest in helping to improve the general health and well-being of the local population. Included among the group are: Vickie Farmer, a Hoke County Community Foundation advisory board member who is a physician’s assistant; Linda Kinney, deputy director of Care Share Health Alliance; Dr. Karen Smith, a local physician; Helene Edwards, interim director of the Hoke County Health Department; and Mary Anne Howard, NCCF regional associate for Sandhills area affiliates.

While diabetes crosses all socio-economic lines and age groups, an aging, overweight population is particularly susceptible, as are minority groups represented in the county.

The leadership group has discovered that many in the county aren’t aware of all of the healthcare resources available to them. A local pharmacy, for example, is offering the un- and underinsured discounts on diabetes supplies. The county health department provides a number of programs on nutrition and exercise. An area farmer’s market provides fair pricing on fresh produce. Yet many diabetic patients reported not knowing about these local remedies and tools.

Compounding the challenge is the fact that there is not one central hospital serving Hoke County residents, who use facilities in both neighboring Moore and Cumberland counties.

The leadership group wants to help remedy this lack of awareness, information and centralization. One of the group’s first initiatives may be to create and distribute a local resource directory for diabetes patients so they can be informed about what services are available. The group has other ideas on the table as well, and will continue to meet and draw in segments of the local community.

Jordan said this initiative illustrates the value of a local community foundation. “We are truly serving as a community leader in our role as a convener on this critical issue,” he said. “I am extremely proud of our Foundation and of our local leaders in Hoke for coming together to help solve this significant health challenge.”

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