Diabetes: Lions Take on a Global Epidemic

It’s an easy, 12-minute drive from Len Dompke’s suburban Chicago home to the local hospital. Yet, the first time Dompke made the drive, it was one of the hardest of his life. Making this drive meant recognizing and changing some unhealthy habits, which was not going to be easy.

Dompke was headed straight for type 2 diabetes. That was before making the drive—each week for a year—to Elmhurst Hospital. If something didn’t change, he was going to become one of the 400 million world citizens living with the disease.

District 1-J Lions partnered with Edward-Elmhurst Health (EEH) to develop a diabetes prevention and lifestyle intervention program, which received a US$95,000 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF). Thanks to this incredible teamwork, Dompke has a new lease on life.

A Preventable Trend

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which the body does not properly use insulin. Diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including skin conditions, eye problems, and nerve damage. Left unchecked, it can lead to premature death. The number of people living with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014 and continues to rise, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The good news is that with changes to diet and lifestyle, type 2 diabetes can be prevented. And that is where Lions get involved.

Len Dompke holds up the pants he wore to his very first “Jumpstart Your Health” class. Dompke is grateful to Lions for the support he needed to make lasting changes. Photo courtesy of Edward-Elmhurst Health.

LCIF diabetes grants can provide Lions with up to US$250,000. Projects typically support diabetes prevention, education, and improved access to treatment for underserved populations. LCIF also supports diabetic retinopathy programs through SightFirst. Visit lcif.org/Grants to learn more about grant funding to help Lions’ districts develop and implement large-scale humanitarian projects.

Lions are committed to improving the quality of life for people worldwide who are living with diabetes.

Lions Heed the Call

The program that helped put Len Dompke’s life back on track, Jumpstart Your Health, is focused squarely on providing education and resources to low-income adults at risk of developing diabetes.

Local Lions, backed by that US$95,000 grant from LCIF and health professionals at EEH, are integral to the program’s success. Each District 1-J Lion involved in the project is trained to be a community ambassador who can advocate for diabetes prevention, facilitate informational meetings, interact with program participants, and host fundraising events. It’s a classic example of Lions doing what they do best—serving!

Lion Patty Worden worked diligently alongside her club members to raise their portion of the funding needed for the Jumpstart Your Health program. “I was quite surprised when I took that A1C test and found out I was prediabetic. After going through the program, I’m tracking my steps, drinking more water, serving more fresh foods. I feel better and make healthier decisions,” says Worden. “I also have the added benefit of knowing that my classmates wouldn’t have been able to take this class without the support of my Lions club. We have worked so hard to provide this for our community. I’m so proud to be a Lion!”

An Inspirational Success

After a very honest discussion with his doctor and unexpected knee surgery, Dompke, 61, mustered the courage to make a phone call that would change his life. He was determined to turn things around and get healthy. Forever.

A simple blood test can help diagnose diabetes and put those affected on a course to healthier living.

Dompke had tried, unsuccessfully, to lose weight on his own. Jumpstart Your Health was the lifeline he needed. “Finally, everything made sense: nutrition, exercise and support are all equal parts of the equation. The program is more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle change, and it gave me the tools I needed to make changes for good,” explains Dompke. “The classes were interesting, the materials were easy to read, the goals were realistic, my instructors were compassionate and smart, and no one judged anyone.”

Dompke is now a stronger, healthier, and 80-pounds-lighter version of his former self. Best of all, with the support of Lions and grant funding from LCIF, he is no longer at risk of developing diabetes.

“Thank you, Lions! I want everyone to know how much good you’re doing for our communities every single day,” says Dompke.

Measurable Impact

Individuals at risk of developing type 2 diabetes are offered enrollment in Jumpstart Your Health in attempts to both stave off the disease and improve overall health and quality of life. In just over a year, the program screened 211 individuals, of whom 8% were diabetic and didn’t know. Another 31% were prediabetic. Of those with prediabetes, 57% enrolled in the program.

The Jumpstart Your Health program, supported by both Lions of District 1-J and LCIF, has been cited twice for “effectively delivering a quality, evidence-based program that meets all the standards for CDC [Centers for Disease Control] recognition,” putting the program into an elite group of diabetes prevention programs. In fact, only one other hospital in the state of Illinois offers a curriculum that has received this honor. Fortunately for Dompke, the program at Edward-Elmhurst Health was just minutes away.

Make a Difference Together

The LCIF Diabetes grant program offers financial support to Lions who seek to improve diabetes awareness, prevention and management initiatives in their communities, often in partnership with diabetes organizations in their districts. Lions are eligible to apply for grant funding of up to US$250,000 for impactful projects that enhance and expand diabetes camps, support comprehensive diabetes screening events, increase access to high-quality health facilities that provide diabetes services, and improve health care professionals’ knowledge.

“This program is proof that Lions are making a big difference in the community. With the help of Lions around the world who support LCIF, we created something that is not only changing but saving lives. This is just the start of what we can accomplish together,” says Lion Jim Worden of the Elmhurst Lions Club.

Visit lcif.org/BE100 to learn more about how LCIF plays a major role in responding to the diabetes global epidemic through comprehensive health initiatives targeted at the communities in which we live and serve.