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Diabetes is an epidemic that affects 30 million Americans and costs more than $300 billion per year. And things could be getting worse.

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A new study, "The Rise of Diabetes in America by 2030," released by PsyDPrograms.org projects diabetes will increase by 38% and effect more than 15% of the U.S. population in 20 years.

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That's very bad news in South Carolina, which has among the highest per-capita rates of the disease.

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The study -- which uses data from the Institute for Alternative Futures, the American Diabetes Association and the CDC -- concludes South Carolina will have the No. 10 most cases of diabetes in 2030, affecting 16.6% of its population.

Also, South Carolina ranked No. 13 with the highest projected rate of increase at 38.5% by 2030.

The findings are even worse news in T&D Region counties, which are known as the "diabetes belt" with rates higher than those elsewhere in a state with among the highest rates in the nation.

Enter the Regional Medical Center, the anchor of the health care system for the three counties of Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg.

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RMC leadership is determined to see the health of the people its serves improve, with curbing diabetes high on the list of priorities. A key component in combating diabetes is better eating.

Toward promoting that, RMC is developing plans for a community garden and farmers market as part of an overall hospital plan to lead a "food as medicine" effort.

It coincides with the hospital's three-year Community Health Improvement Plan to help create a healthy community with the intent of reducing medical costs.

The CHIP plan's ultimate goal is to improve the overall health of the tri-county area through healthy eating.

Strategies the hospital is using to make the plan a reality include:

  • Expanding existing services by bringing information on healthy living to churches as well as continuing school and community gardens.
  • Starting food boxes connecting local farmers to food pantries.
  • Encouraging more roadside stands and the use of government benefits.
  • Encouraging more healthy foods being provided at community functions.
  • Promoting healthy food truck options.

AND implementing a diabetes-prevention program.

With RMC's own recent survey confirming that residents here continue to struggle with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, the good news is hospital trustees are unanimous in support of the CHIP proposals.

Diabetes can cause a reduction in quality of life, psychological trauma, amputation of limbs and ultimately premature death. There is no higher health priority here than doing battle with the disease.

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