Rutgers organization seeks to increase diabetes outreach
More than 473,000 New Jersey adults have diabetes, according to Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 2003-2005. The New Jersey Department of Health expects the trend of increasing numbers and rates of people with diabetes to continue unless preventive measures are taken.
Fatima Rizvi, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, founded the Rutgers College Diabetes Network last fall and held the first meeting last month.
The new community service organization held its second meeting in the Busch Campus Center last night, where new board members were introduced and future plans were discussed.
Fansie Connelly, a certified diabetes educator and clinical social worker at St. Peter’s Hospital, spoke about her personal struggles with diabetes, and how she helps others learn to control it.
“When you live with diabetes, you never get a break,” said Connelly. “It is with you 24/7.”
Connelly found out she had Type 1 diabetes when she was 8 years old, and said she did not know how to properly manage it for a long time.
As a first-year student in college, the all-you-can-eat options of the dining hall made it difficult for her to control her diabetes, and she was not careful about taking insulin. She ended up in the hospital when her blood sugar levels got too high.
“Time went on, and I realized that if I controlled it, I was the one who was winning,” said Connelly.
Connelly, realizing she wanted to help others living with diabetes, teaches people how managing their diabetes is the best thing they can do for themselves.
She said that after going on an insulin pump, it made a huge difference in her life and gave her better control. She also works as an insulin pump trainer.
“I thought if I can do this, anyone can,” she said.
Rizvi does not have diabetes, but saw the struggle of living with diabetes through a friend of hers who suffered from Type 1 diabetes. Her friend came from California to study at Rutgers, leaving behind the doctor she trusted.
As a busy student, she did not have time to go out of her way to prepare proper meals and faced limited options in the dining halls, said Rizvi.
“There are times when she just can’t get the right kinds of food,” said Rizvi.
She said college tends to be an especially hard time for students with dietary restrictions, especially when they are expected the take care of themselves.
Rizvi was empathetic because as a vegetarian, she finds it difficult to make the right eating choices.
When Rizvi’s diabetic friend told her that there was no specific program at Rutgers to help fight diabetes, Rizvi decided to do something about it.
She contacted the chairwoman of the National College Diabetes Network and created Rutgers CDN from there.
Rutgers CDN hopes to spread awareness about diabetes and educate the local community through outreach programs.
“Some people just don’t want to talk about it, or they think that their diabetes makes them weaker,” said Rizvi. “We want them to have a safe place.”
On April 13, Rutgers CDN will be using interactive displays to teach children facts about diabetes treatment and prevention at the “Global Health Fair” in the Liberty Science Center.
Rutgers CDN will also be setting up presentations at St. Peter’s Hospital in the future, and Rizvi hopes that they will be collaborating with New Brunswick Tomorrow.
The organization has about 20 members, and Rizi hopes to gain more members by bringing the issue out into the open.
Rizvi encourages anyone interested in a career in healthcare, community service or social work to help with the organization.
As the years have passed, healthcare options and tools for people with diabetes have gotten better, Connelly said.
Connelly advises students with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to take advantage of the resources around them as a way to gain power over their diabetes.
Kelly Connor, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, joined Rutgers CDN to share her own stories of dealing with Type 1 diabetes and to help others deal with diabetes.
Although having diabetes has been hard on her and her family at times, she has found ways to take care of herself and stay healthy.
“This is what I have to live with, and I’ve learned to accept it,” said Connor.