Mon River FLEET Improving Health of Local Communities
Diabetes Prevention, Education and Management Now Available
to Residents At No Charge
by John Fries
What often happens when several ships get together? They form a fleet,
sail the ocean, and discover new worlds.
Here in Western Pennsylvania, thereÕs a new FLEET thatÕs moving forward
very quickly. ItÕs not on the ocean, but, rather, in several communities
along the Monongahela River. And the SHIPs in this case arenÕt large
vessels, but State Health Improvement Plans from McKeesport, Duquesne,
Braddock and Hazelwood, that banded together last year to provide Mon
Valley residents with diabetes prevention, education and management.
The State Health Improvement Plans have been in place across the Commonwealth
for the last several years, and are comprised of local leaders working
in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Their mission
is to address social, health, educational, spiritual, recreational,
safety and security needs in their communities, with an emphasis on
Healthy People 2010 goals.
Last year, the McKeesport, Duquesne, Braddock, and Hazelwood SHIPs decided
to take things a few steps further when they realized the need to address
the high incidence of diabetes within the African American population
(three times that of Caucasians). Noticing that there was a lack of
programs in place to address the issue, they formed the Mon Valley FLEET,
which is dedicated to seeking innovative ways of spreading information
and solutions in their communities. Several organizations participate
in FLEET, including the McKeesport Hospital Foundation, UPMC McKeesport,
UPMC Braddock, and Community College of Allegheny County.
Proof that strength exists in numbers is evident from the great progress
thatÕs been made since the Mon Valley FLEET was formed. Diabetes workshops
have been set up throughout the communities served by the FLEET, and
new workshops are planned. In addition to diabetes, other important
health issues are also being addressed, and more initiatives will soon
Recently, a meeting of more than 20 FLEET participants was held at UPMC
McKeesport at which progress and future plans were discussed. "ItÕs
a true collaborative effort," says Michele Baich Matuch, executive director
of the McKeesport Hospital Foundation.
Matuch, together with the Lions in Districts 14-B and 14-E, was instrumental
in the development, planning, and funding of the Lions Diabetes Center
at UPMC McKeesport in 1992, and she continues to raise funds for those
in need of medications. "We know we have the need," she adds. "In fact,
one in four residents do not seek medical care because they cannot afford
to pay for their tests and medications." She adds that future growth
of the program is likely.
Ken Thompson, M.D., a psychiatrist and Mon Valley SHIP facilitator,
agrees. "WeÕre in a position to do some very innovative work."
Workshops present education aimed at preventing diabetes, increasing
early diagnosis of people with diabetes, and controlling the growth
of diabetes by empowering at-risk people to change their behaviors.
Each workshop begins with three one-hour sessions that provide an introduction
to diabetes. There are one-hour workshops scheduled at six months and
12 months to ensure that projected behavioral and physiological changes
are being met.
Participants are introduced to the food pyramid and receive information
about lifestyle modification. Each creates a personalized lifestyle
management plan, and all are urged to do such simple, but helpful, things
as walking for health improvement. Maps are even provided.
The FLEETÕs goal is to provide workshops to 250 individuals over three
years in the targeted areas. Although the focus is on African-Americans,
anyone is welcome to participate.
"We know weÕre going to make a difference," says Dr. Gretchen Mullin
of CCAC, whose facility hosted the first workshop. "WeÕre getting a
diverse cross-section of participants Š black and white, young and old
Š from such communities as McKeesport, Monongahela, West Mifflin, Duquesne,
Clairton and Pittsburgh", she adds.
Lorie Rue, facilitator of the Duquesne Community SHIP, attended the
workshop held in Duquesne. She says, "The educational program is great
because participants learned information they didnÕt know, and they
felt free about talking."
UPMC Braddock, according to Kim Fedor, is planning a series of workshops
and notes that, this spring, the hospital will break ground on a new
wellness center that the YMCA will manage.
As the initiative rolls out and workshops get underway, outcomes are
being tracked, and attendees are being asked to complete pre- and post-workshop
quizzes to ensure that the information is being retained. Thompson says
that physicians in SHIP areas have a great opportunity to refer their
patients to the diabetes workshops.
"The State Department of Health and communities can now be much more
involved in prevention. WeÕre bringing together health and community
resources for the benefit of the people who live in our area."
Physicians and other interested people are urged to call 412-833-3630
or visit http://www.monriverfleet.com for more information.