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Advancing Health Equity in Our Community with Diabetes Alert Day

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When Temple Health opened our Healthy Together Hub at the Fox Street ShopRite in December 2023, it was with the goal of bringing much-needed services into our community, and meeting our neighbors where they are by making healthcare part of their daily routine.

“Patients talk a lot about the barriers they face when seeking care,” says Diabetes Program Manager and Chair of Temple’s Diabetes Advisory Board Casey Dascher, MBA, RD, CDCES. “That includes taking time off work, finding childcare, and facing transportation issues.”

Aliya Khabir, Marketing Manager for Community Health, agrees. “If someone isn’t feeling all that great, they may put off making an appointment to see their doctor, because it’s hard to overcome those barriers,” she says. “But if they were already planning on going to the supermarket, and they know that Temple has our Healthy Together Hub at Fox Street, then they’ll think, ‘Why don’t I just stop by and get checked out there?’ They don’t have to make an extra trip.”

All of this made the Healthy Together Hub the perfect location to host our third annual Diabetes Alert Day: an event focused on empowering community members to manage their diabetes. “I could stop people who were coming in to shop and say, ‘Hey, can I check your blood sugar?’ And they would say, ‘Right now?’ And I would tell them, ‘Yes, definitely!’” says Senior Transition Navigator Tonja Belo, MSN, RN, CMGT-BC, who oversees Diabetes Alert Day and our Mobile Health Van community events.


Learning through Lived Experience

“At Diabetes Alert Day, our Temple Team members offered screenings that are critical for preventing the development of diabetes complications, like eye exams and podiatry exams,” says Diabetes Nutrition Educator Lindsey Verano, MPH, RD, LDN, CDCES. “We gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste from our dental school, to remind attendees of the importance of routine dental care in people with diabetes. We also provided A1C testing to help patients see if they were at risk for developing diabetes, and to understand their level of blood sugar control over the past few months. Additionally, we provided diabetes and nutrition education materials, as well as information to get signed up for our diabetes program. Our Dietary interns also offered tours of the Fox Street ShopRite to help community members better understand how to interpret nutrition labels and cook healthier options.” 

“This kind of education is critical,” says Lakisha Sturgis, RN, BSN, MPH, CPHQ, Director of Community Care Management for Population Health. “After a patient is diagnosed with a chronic condition like diabetes, there’s often a lot of information to digest. That’s why it’s so important to have multiple points of contact where patients can receive education and ask questions. With the Healthy Together Hub, we wanted to create a space where our experts can have transparent conversations with community members, and share information in a way those community members can relate to.”

Empowering through Education

According to Sturgis and Belo, the more information our community members have, the more effectively they can advocate for themselves when making healthcare decisions. “I’ve had people come back and tell me, ‘I took this information and used it to follow up with my doctor, and my care really improved as a result,’” Belo says. “That’s what we’re doing here at the Healthy Together Hub: empowering people with information. I can give someone a ‘Know Your Numbers’ card where I write down their blood pressure and their blood glucose, and they can show it to their primary care provider. Now, they’re educated about their health—and that’s another thing that builds trust.”

In fact, some community members have built such strong relationships with our Healthy Together Hub staff that they notice when someone isn’t there during their weekly grocery runs. “There’s a Community Health Worker who works with me who’s been out for the last couple of weeks, because she’s preparing to teach a class,” Belo says. “And people have asked, ‘Where’s your friend?’ They’re so used to seeing her that they’ve been asking about her. I keep telling them, ‘She’ll be back soon!”

Taking Control of their Health

Now that the Healthy Together Hub and its staff have such a presence in our community, our Temple Health team members are looking forward to expanding their offerings to further empower our neighbors. “Our nursing students will be using the space to conduct healthy food demonstrations and provide recipes,” says Sturgis. “And we’ve already started a Diabetes Prevention class at the Healthy Together Hub, which meets on the first Wednesday of each month.”

“The community members who attend these class sessions will make lasting lifestyle changes to their healthy eating habits and physical activity levels,” says Edoris Lomax, Community Health Worker and Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator. And the goal of all these programs will be the same as Diabetes Alert Day itself: to encourage community members to take control of their health, and to remove barriers that can make lifestyle changes difficult. It’s an important mission—and we get closer to achieving it each time someone walks through the doors of the Fox Street ShopRite.