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Spreading Sweet Dreams in South Health District

December 13, 2013

Originally published Jan. 23, 2012

Since 2005, over 500 people have been through Sweet Dreams, a diabetes education and management program at the Ben Hill, Berrien, Cook and Irwin County Health Departments. The goals for the program are to reduce the number of hospitalizations resulting from diabetes or diabetic complications by ten percent and to increase community awareness of the importance of prevention and early detection of Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. In 2005, the prevalence of diabetes in Ben Hill and Irwin Counties was much higher when compared to Georgia and the United States. Both counties fell in the top 50% of counties in Georgia with the highest hospital admissions for uncontrolled diabetes.

In order to combat this chronic illness, the Irwin County Board of Health applied for a grant, which formed the Sweet Dreams program. “Without this program, many people would not be able to get the education, medication or support they need when dealing with diabetes,” stated Bridget Walters, RN, BSN, CDE, program director. “Through the Palemon Gaskins Trust Fund and Sweet Dreams program, almost $100,000 worth of medications and testing supplies were provided to uninsured diabetics.”

In 2009, the program expanded into Berrien and Cook Counties due to their high prevalence rate of diabetes.
There are 23.6 million children and adults in the United States currently diagnosed with diabetes; twice as many as a decade ago. The direct cost of the medical care for diabetes is estimated at over $30 billion, with an additional $30 billion for treatment of conditions related to diabetes. By providing services for the treatment and prevention of diabetes, Sweet Dreams has saved the health care system a significant amount of money, an estimated $281,000. The projected increase in productivity due to a healthier workforce is over $132,000 for the five year period. When medical care cost savings are combined with the increases in economic productivity that are derived from the treatment and prevention of diabetes, Sweet Dreams will yield a 5-year total return on investment of $9.48 for every dollar spent – a real, measurable benefit to the residents and businesses in these communities.