Often, the most inspiring advances are born out of the need to fill a void.
When long time Parsons residents Jacque and Kelly Rector’s grandson was diagnosed at age two with type 1 diabetes, they discovered that the kind of information and support they sought was unavailable. Realizing the seriousness of the disease, and its pervasiveness both nationally and within the state of Kansas, they became determined to find a way to make lifesaving resources available in their community and make a difference for the citizens of Kansas. Kelly Rector, the former President and CEO of Wichita Southeast Kansas Transit, has always been passionate about community involvement, but suddenly the desire was deeply personal.
The first rural diabetes center in the United States is now making a huge impact on the health of communities in Kansas, already helping more than 1,220 visitors since it opened its doors 14 months ago. All the services are offered completely free of charge.
As the vision began to take shape, it was clear that to change the trend of diabetes as well as meet the needs of the community, it was necessary to meet people where they were to help them develop habits that would stay with them for a lifetime. Soon, the idea of a local, accessible, dynamic center of education, fitness and resources came to view.
“Thanks to the Rector family’s generosity, Labette Health has been able to create a rural model that can be effective not only in educating people about diabetes but providing an example that can be duplicated in rural areas throughout the country,” said Mahoney.
Filling a Deep Need
According to the Kansas Diabetes Plan 2008-2013, an estimated 216,000 Kansas adults have diabetes and 65,000 others have diabetes but have not been diagnosed. That’s 7.1 percent of the state’s adult population. From 1992 to 2006, the prevalence increased by an alarming 58%.
According to a Kansas pediatrician, Dr. Manish Dixit, the center is a valuable investment for adults and children. “Lifestyle changes are best made in young age groups. We have to invest in the health of our community by controlling obesity and future diabetes.” She hopes the Rector Center will provide an innovative, high-quality, cost-effective, child-focused and family-centered care model to help control childhood diabetes.
A Center Focused on Community
The 2,000 square foot facility incorporates classrooms, presentation spaces and a kitchen demonstration area accessible by the entire community.
Not only will children at risk for diabetes come to learn how to live a more healthy lifestyle using tools like interactive games, they also have access to the fitness facility down the hall at Labette Health.
The center’s programs are designed to be more than merely informative. “We not only want to educate the people of the community. We want to inspire them. It is about changing the way we live at the foundational levels for a brighter, healthier future.”
Last fall, Labette’s Healthy Kids initiative screened more than 600 children at five area elementary schools, inviting the children identified as at risk to participate in the Center’s programs.
“There is so much that people don’t know about health and nutrition – the difference between good fats and bad fats, for instance, or appropriate serving sizes,” said Shellie Collins, R.N., Director of the Rector Diabetes Education and Resource Center.
“While we will actively seek to identify children who can benefit from our services, many children and their families will be referred by physicians and health centers throughout Kansas, and will be able to participate in activities that will inform and engage them.”
The seriousness of diabetes is often underestimated, according to Dr. Dixit. “Our community and our nation often fail to see the bigger picture when it comes to the impact diabetes creates. People with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and circulation problems that can lead to amputation. This not only impacts the health of the person, but their family, finances and sometimes their livelihood. Additionally, it dramatically impacts the healthcare system as a whole.”
Studies show that conditions such as adult heart disease and atherosclerosis originate in childhood, Dr. Dixit said, noting that children between ages five and 17 with a body mass index (BMI) greater than the 85th percentile are 2.4 times more likely to have high cholesterol, three times more likely to have high LDL, 3.4 times more likely to have more HDL, 7.1 times more likely to have high triglycerides and 4.5 times more likely to have high blood pressure.
According to Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Division of Health, the direct and indirect cost of diabetes in Kansas was an estimated $1.4 billion in 2004. Nearly half (49.3%) of the total cost of care for diabetes was paid by Medicaid, Medicare (21.4%) and other public funds (17.6%).
This CDC chart shows the number of Americans with diabetes has more than tripled since 1980.
Childhood obesity has risen at alarming rates over the last decade and. if current trends continue, it is estimated that one in three children born today will develop this disease sometime in their life.
The good news is that studies show these future health problems are preventable.
“If we help educate the children to make healthier food choices, we will make the most impact,” said Reno Jain, Rector Center’s Registered Dietitian. “Our society promotes weight gain on every level, with high caloric foods, excessive portions, and a sedentary lifestyle. If we give people healthy alternatives, they often much prefer them.”
The Rector Center’s goal is to encourage involvement on every level. “Not only will we provide a comprehensive education in health and nutrition for parents and children, we will see teachers, daycare providers, interns, nurses, from throughout the community participate.
According to Peter Savage, M.D., from the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases of the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Md, this is a time of opportunity for diabetics because there have been so many advances in medical research and diabetes education. (photo, Rector Center dietitian Reno Jain)
“A lot of research has already been done that can benefit patients right now. By applying the information we already know, patients with diabetes can have a brighter future.”
The Rector Center is located at 1902 South U.S. Highway 59, Parsons, KS 67357