Tuesday July 24, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Over the next six months, the Pittsfield Health Department, in collaboration with Berkshire Health Systems and RSVP Berkshire County, hope to screen approximately 1,000 senior citizens for diabetes.

The first of 12 free screenings for people who are 65 years old or older will kick off at the Pittsfield Senior Center on North Street between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Friday. Blood sugar testing, blood pressure checks, diabetes risk assessment tests, nutritional and physical activity counseling will all be provided.

According to Merridith O'Leary, public health director for Pittsfield, the Mass achusetts Department of Pub lic Health estimates that 7.5 percent of people living in the city have diabetes. Of that group, 17.2 percent are 65 or older.

"We are in the middle of an unheralded epidemic," O'Lea ry said. "Yet, many people do not understand that diabetes can be prevented and reversed through minor lifestyle changes."

Anyone wishing to attend Friday's clinic at the Pittsfield Senior Center should not eat or drink for eight hours prior to the test. Water, black coffee and black tea are allowed.

During the screening, health care professionals will identify if participants are at risk for diabetes with a finger-stick test for glucose (sugar) levels, a blood pressure check and a questionnaire for diabetes risks factors.

"The earlier that diabetes and pre-diabetes are detected, the sooner individuals can take important steps toward preventing complications or further progression of the disease," O'Leary said. "We believe that this comprehensive diabetes outreach initiative will help the population who are more at risk for the disease and who are grossly undiagnosed get the healthcare they need."

Following Friday's launch at the Pittsfield Senior Center, other clinics will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 8, at Rose Manor; Friday, Aug. 31, at the Pittsfield Senior Center; and Wednesday, Sept. 12 at Berkshire Town and Colum bia Arms. All screenings will run from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

Additional screenings will be held on the second Wednesday and the last Friday. Locations for the fall screening clinics will be announced at a later date.