OHIO VALLEY — Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine has long offered a wide range of services to people with diabetes in southeast Ohio counties including Meigs County. Now the college is expanding those services even more, with an added emphasis on helping children with the disease.
A three-year, $600,000 grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will fund diabetes navigation services, and also some new programs, for residents of Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton and Washington counties.
New services will include a child diabetes navigation program for children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes; peer mentoring for these children using Ohio University students as mentors; and free mental health services and transportation assistance for both children and adults.
There are no income requirements. The navigation program connects participants and their families with area resources that can help them with issues such as food insecurity, blood glucose monitoring, exercise options and mental health impacts of diabetes.
In collaboration with the Athens City-County Health Department, the college will also offer free job training to area residents who wish to become certified community health workers. One of the trainees will be hired by the health department and will work to expand the reach of adult diabetes navigation services in the region. The community health worker training is expected to begin later this year.
Diabetes and its complications are among the biggest health problems facing the United States, and the problem is especially severe in Appalachian Ohio. An eight-county Diabetes Needs Assessment conducted in 2016 by the Diabetes Institute at the Heritage College and the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs found that while the disease affected 9.4 percent of the U.S. population and 11 percent of Ohioans, 19.9 percent of adults in the region were affected by it.