The Knock Out Diabetes campaign has been taking over Brockton this month in order to raise awareness and knowledge about the disease. The campaign was put on by Harbor One Credit Union and Signature Healthcare, along with over 50 community co-sponsors, including the American Diabetes Association New England. The campaign started June 9 and featured free interactive events in many locations that offered health screenings, free fitness classes at the YMCA, cooking demonstrations, clinical information sessions, and even discounted bowling opportunities.
Leo McNeil, the director of community relations at Harbor One Credit Union and one of the creators of the event, said he was recently challenged to find an annual event for the community.
“We wanted to extend it to more than one day,” he said. “There is quite a lot of evidence that Brockton has a higher amount of diabetes than other towns in Mass. I thought that I could get a lot of support from people in the community and my intuition was correct.”
Mcneil said it was easy to find enthusiastic people who were excited to get the campaign going. One of the first he approached was Julie Lom, the diabetes education manager for the Brockton Visiting Nurse Association.
“He approached numerous people about the event and I was one of the lucky ones,” Lom said. “I absolutely wanted to get involved.”
Brockton has a percent of residents with diabetes above that at the state level, and the series of events was received as a unifying force in the community that rallied constituents.
Lom said the campaign pertained specifically to Brockton due to the socioeconomic base there with many people living in poverty.
“We also have a wide proportion of minorities and we know that Type 2 diabetes really does target, disproportionately, our minority community,” Lom said.
McNeil said he was pleased with the overall response and popularity of the events, though was concerned about the lower turnouts at the events during the week.
“People are registering for the events but aren’t coming to them,” McNeil said. “It is puzzling and indeed disappointing.”
However, McNeil said the weekend events tended to drew larger crowds of 400 to 500 people.
Albert Whitaker, the director of mission delivery at the American Diabetes Association New England, distributed information at two of the health fairs during the campaign. He said he thought the event was very successful.
“I think it isn’t about quantity as opposed to quality,” Whitaker said. “We have gotten some really good questions and people are willing to take the information and apply it.”
Whitaker said he is happy to see how proactive and reactive the Brockton community has been during this event.
“What I am pleased about in Brockton is the whole community is coming together to try and knock out diabetes and say ‘look, this is an epidemic in our community and we are going to do something about it’,” he said.
Brockton mayor Linda Balzotti attended one of the events at Brockton High School and highlighted the importance of these educational events in her speech.
Lom said the event also targeted obesity and health and wellness in general. Many of the events featured opportunities for attendees to speak with certified diabetes educators, nutritionists, fitness experts, local outreach, and health enrollment specialists, among others. Chef Dana Herbert, winner of TLC’s “Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker” was brought in to give cooking demonstrations on healthy eating.
On most event days prizes and giveaways were gifted to attendees to encourage participation. Among the many screenings available were blood pressure, cholesterol, vascular health, vision and kidney screenings.
“We want to raise awareness so people get tested and know what the signs and symptoms are and that they know that this is a disease which affects everyone,” Dorothy Slack, the aging initiative advisor at Old Colony Elder Services, said. “It doesn’t look at age, it doesn’t look at race, it doesn’t look at sex.”