by LCIF Marketing November 1, 2021World Sight DayAfter Diabetes Diagnosis, One Lion Makes it His Mission to Spread AwarenessPandemic forces creative solution to safe school screeningsWhen Lion Pat Ryan was a child, his grandmother came to live with his family. One thing Ryan noticed quickly was that his grandmother had two different sized feet – size 10 on her right and size 8 on her left. The reason? She had all of her toes amputated from her left foot due to diabetes complications. This was Ryan’s first experience with the disease, but it would not be his last.According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10.5% of adults are living with diabetes. In the state of Kentucky, that number is drastically higher with approximately 15% of the adult population diagnosed with diabetes and 35% considered prediabetic. Furthermore, Kentucky has the fourth highest diabetes mortality rate in the nation.Bluegrass Lions have put together a two-year plan aimed at reducing the prevalence of diabetes and improving the quality of life for those diagnosed.In 2014, Ryan himself was struggling with type 2 diabetes. He had developed stage 3 chronic kidney disease and was taking prescription medication to control his blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. “I was well on my way to having bad complications due to diabetes,” said Ryan.Ryan knew he needed to take action to live a healthier life and gain control over his diabetes. Through major lifestyle changes including changing his diet, moving his body more, and seeking diabetes education, Ryan’s blood sugar lowered, blood pressure normalized, cholesterol went down, and his chronic kidney disease was downgraded to stage 1. Today, he takes none of the prescription medication he once took daily and has regained control of his life.Ryan’s struggle with diabetes made him even more aware of the prevalence of the disease in his home state of Kentucky, where seven out of 10 people don’t know they have the disease. When diabetes became an official cause area of Lions Clubs International and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) in 2017, Ryan found his calling.Lions adopted diabetes as an official global cause in response to an ever-growing global need for awareness, support, and prevention. In order to magnify the service of Lions throughout the world, LCIF launched an enhanced Diabetes grant program to assist with large-scale projects in the areas of diabetes awareness, education, access to care, screenings, and facility improvements.To date, the Lions have hosted 28 screening events, which included both A1C screenings and retinal screenings for diabetic retinopathy.With Ryan taking the lead, the Bluegrass Lions put together a two-year plan aimed at reducing the prevalence of diabetes and improving the quality of life for those diagnosed. With the help of a US$67,500 LCIF Diabetes grant, the Bluegrass Lions have educated and screened thousands of Kentuckians, with plans to reach even more.To date, the Lions have hosted 28 screening events, which included both A1C screenings and retinal screenings for diabetic retinopathy. More than 240 people with possible diabetes or pre-diabetes were referred to the proper medical professionals.The events also encourage Kentuckians with diabetes or pre-diabetes to enroll in either the Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) Program or Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The two nationally certified programs provide the foundation to equip people with diabetes or prediabetes to navigate self-management, lifestyle decisions, and activities. Evidence has shown that enrollment in DSMES improves diabetes outcomes and reduces health care costs, while enrollment in DPP cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half for those with prediabetes.The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a challenge with many screening events canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to social distancing guidelines in the state. With diabetes being one of the pre-existing conditions that can lead to serious COVID-19 complications, the Bluegrass Lions knew they needed to stay active to keep their communities safe. They have since refocused their efforts on community awareness and plan to host more screening events this fall.LCIF is proud to award Diabetes grants that support Lions’ efforts like these to make an impact in their communities to raise awareness of diabetes, expand access to care, and improve quality of life for those diagnosed. To learn more, visit lcif.org/diabetes.