Diabetes targeted in Project HEALTH

William P. Foster shared his secret battle with diabetes before a crowd of children and local leaders last week. He talked of drawing his blood twice a day, pricking his finger to check blood sugar levels, eating on a special schedule and visiting the doctor bi-monthly.

“I have come to know first hand the (impact) that such an illness can have on your life,” said Foster, who served more than 50 years as the “Marching 100” director.

And Foster, who has struggled with the illness for nearly two decades, wants to help end the disease which has become the leading killer among blacks.

Foster, 83, is the chairman of Project HEALTH, an initiative announced last week by local physician Joseph L. Webster.

The initiative, scheduled to launch in January, will study obesity and diabetes among black children ages six to 18. Four Leon County schools have been selected.

Several community leaders pledged their support at last week’s media conference, including FAMU Provost Larry Robinson and Cynthia Harris, director of the FAMU Institute of Public Health.

“The health of nation is predicated on the health of its children,” Harris said. “Obese children turn into obese adults. Let’s keep them from the casket in front of us,” Harris said as she pointed out a casket brought in by supporters.

Obesity-linked diabetes is one of the leading health problems among blacks. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention estimates 16 million Americans have diabetes and 32 percent of non-Hispanic blacks are obese.

“We can make a major contribution to project HEALTH,” Robinson said.Robinson said FAMU health care faculty and students would be available to help, and mentioned a $6 million federal grant given to the School of Pharmacy.

Financial support might be a problem for the project. Webster, the principal investigator of the project, said it has no funding at the present time. Only the Institute for African-American Health Inc, which is owned by Webster, has donated.

However, Webster said survey letters will be sent to parents whose children attend Leonard-Wesson Elementary School, Nims Middle School, Rickards High School and FAMU Developmental Research School.

The letters will ask parent’s permission to study their child for several months. The project summary will monitor students’ weight, school performance, sugar and salt intake for several months. The study will also require students to increase their activity levels.