Most African Americans know someone in their family or a friend who has diabetes.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. In addition, they are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, such as end-stage renal disease and lower extremity amputations.

Dr. Monica Peek is the Associate Director for the University of Chicago’s Medicine’s Center for Diabetes Translation Research, and the Principle Investigator for the Center’s Improving Diabetes Care & Outcomes on the Southside of Chicago Project. She focuses much of her practice and research efforts on diabetes because she simply wants to know why African Americans are highly effected and suffer more with the disease.

Peek points out that since African Americans experience more complications and other chronic conditions related to the disease, we have to be aware that these complications and related conditions become leading causes of death among African Americans such as kidney failure or congestive heart failure.

However, there are preventative steps individuals and families can take to overcome many of the health challenges associated with diabetes. Peek believes that it is all about Patient Empowerment and allowing patients to take ownership over their health and their healthcare decisions. There has to be optimal communication between patients and doctors. The way patients and doctors communicate with one another directly impact a patient’s health. She adds, “The qualities of care that we’ve received in health care systems hasn’t been equal a lot of the time. So, there are things that shape or happen in a clinical encounter that can act as a tool to empower African Americans to be more proactive and feel more confident when they walk into the healthcare system. They are able to better negotiate what happens at their doctor’s visit and the kind of care they are receiving.”

Peek seeks to take patients to the next level of empowerment through various community-outreach programs. Nov. 17 at 12 p.m., The Diabetes Care & Outcomes Project presents its 1st Annual Diabetes Cook-Off at the Washburn Culinary Institute on the campus of Kennedy King College, 740 W. 63rd St. The event is intended to increase awareness of fun low-cost healthy food preparation. People can prepare foods in a limited time, with limited resources, and have it taste good for the whole family. Celebrity judges Attorney Jeffrey Leving, The Food Network’s Fat Chef Michael Digby, and WVON-AM/1690’s Matt McGill will choose the winner out of 12 finalists.

In addition to the Cook-Off, The Diabetes Care & Outcomes Project coordinates other community outreach programs including a prescription coupon give-away for diabetic patients to use at local Farmers Markets and participating Walgreens locations, grocery store tours, public cooking demonstrations, and diabetes education classes. All have been successful in assisting residents in diabetes prevention, diabetes control, and all around healthy living. Patients who visit one of the following South Side clinics are eligible:

Participating Clinics:
• Access Booker Family Health Center, 654 E. 47th St.
• Access Grand Boulevard Health and Specialty Center, 5401 S. Wentworth Ave. Chicago Family Health Center, 9119 S. Exchange Ave.
• Friend Family Health Center, 800 E. 55th St.
• Kovler Diabetes Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, 5841 S. Maryland Ave. The Primary Care Group at the University of Chicago Medicine, 5841 S. Maryland Ave.

Participating Walgreens Stores:
• 1213 W. 79th St.
• 5036 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
• 8636 S. Ashland Ave.
• 650 W. 63rd St.
• 2924 E. 92nd St.
• 1533 E. 67th Pl.
• 2015 E. 79th St.

Participating Farmers Market:
• 61st Street Farmers Market (between Dorchester and Blackstone)
Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.; now through mid-December

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