DALLAS — At least 621,000 Texans are unaware they have diabetes.
Victoria Allen was among them until 2019. She has family members who have been diagnosed including a nephew who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at just 5 years old.
“I was healthy up until the day I found out I had diabetes,” Allen said.
She started to notice her weight fluctuating, she was drinking lots of water and experiencing irritation when she urinated. It is then her doctor diagnosed her with diabetes.
“I refuse to do insulin, so I’m going to start working harder at getting healthier,” Allen said.
She started seeing Ana Archila, a physician assistant at Healing Hands Ministry Clinic in Dallas.
“Diabetes is a lifelong condition that we know affects you in many different ways. Especially here in America, about one in 10 adults have diabetes,” Archila said.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the number is even higher in Texas: more than 2.5 million Texans have been diagnosed with the disease.
Healing Hands Ministry Clinic is working to help their patients get their diabetes under control not just through medication.
Each year, Texans with diabetes spend over $20 billion in health care.
“I spent $200 a week or two ago that I didn’t have to get my meds,” Allen said. “I paid part of my electric to get my meds.”
That’s why the clinic has several programs to help lessen that financial burden and get patients healthier at the same time.
One of those programs is a shared medical appointment. Individuals with diabetes have one visit where they meet with their doctor, a mental health professional and a nutritionist alongside other patients with diabetes.
“They are able to come in for less visits. It's more cost effective for them, less copays. That’s what we’re trying to do for them,” Archila said.
It also a way to build community, she added.
The clinic also offers a monthly Community Fit Club in which patients meet with a dietitian and registered nurse for an hour. They learn about ways to cook vegetables, snacks when you’re on the go and exercises one can do throughout the day.
“If diabetes goes without treatment it can lead to adverse effects and consequences such as limb amputation, heart attack, stroke and even death,” said Archila.