EATONVILLE, Fla. – A health and wellness center focused on lowering the risk of diabetes in a particular community is making significant progress in its fourth year.
In 2013, a research project by the Central Florida Health Foundation showed 24 percent of the people living in the historic town of Eatonville had Type 2 diabetes.
"We're looking at all this data to see why do the people in this town have such a high rate of diabetes?" said Constance Brown, a registered nurse.
The community, along with funding from Florida Hospital, established Healthy Eatonville Place, a clinic to stop the growing statistic.
Brown leads the center, along with an outreach coordinator and several complimentary programs for community participants. Residents can register for nutrition, cooking and exercise classes at no cost in exchange for their involvement in the research study.
"We find that once people come through this door they've made a choice to make a difference in their lives," Brown said.
Participants allow Brown and her team to collect labs, biometrics and surveys to better understand and track diabetes.
"This program is vital to the health and also the economics of the community itself," said Greg Ware, a participant at the center.
Brown said since the center opened in 2014, they've learned a lot about the health barriers facing the community of Eatonville.
"Eatonville is a town that is a food desert. There are no grocery stores in this town," said Brown.
Brown said residents also struggle with transportation and establishing a medical home with primary care providers. The participants working with Brown can get doctor referrals and meet with a pharmacist to discuss medications.
More than 600 people are participants at the center. The team has helped prevent diabetes in 97 percent identified as pre-diabetics.
In 2017 Brown said the team recognized the need from the community to establish trust and social resources.
"Because you're building that trust factor, so if there's someone that's looking like you, and talk like you, and really understand what you go through know your history, then they're willing to be more open with you," said Brown.
The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed more than 30 million Americans have diabetes.