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The Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute offers diabetes education services and even a demonstration kitchen.

Photo courtesy of Baylor Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute

The decision by Baylor Scott & White Health, Dallas, to revamp an underutilized neighborhood recreation center in the impoverished South Dallas area of Frazier to tackle diabetes continues to make a positive impact.  

The Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute (DHWI) at the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center has created an access point for care and a one-stop shop to serve residents who are battling diabetes.   

The renovated facility now offers a family health center, primary care clinic, diabetes education services and even a demonstration kitchen to teach residents about what foods will contribute to a healthy lifestyle. The 22 acres surrounding the center provide space for tennis and basketball courts, walking paths and lifestyle classes.

In economically depressed Frazier, 60 percent of residents are unemployed and 33 percent live below the poverty level.

“The commitment here is to really make a difference in this community,” says Joel Allison, president and CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health, “and show that we can truly improve the health of a population and prove that prevention, education and screenings do make a difference and have an impact.”

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The institute offers affordable, fresh produce to the community once a week.

Photo courtesy of Baylor Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute

The results speak for themselves. More than 4,000 community members have participated directly in DHWI programs. As of July 31, 2015, 40 percent of the institute’s members who have diabetes have achieved optimal blood sugar levels, and 67 percent have reached optimal blood pressure control.

Not only that, but changes in the neighborhood are visible; with a children’s medical center opening a clinic nearby, the community has been revitalized, Allison says.

Helping residents to develop healthy eating habits has been an ongoing priority. Community needs assessments and a board member who grew up near Frazier found that the area was located in a food desert, with no local grocery store within a mile of the neighborhood.

A weekly farm stand sponsored by Baylor Scott & White offers low-cost fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to the fresh food, a nutritionist is on hand to educate residents on developing healthful habits.

Community events such as DHWI cook-offs and the annual Healthy Harvest 5K bring the community together to help spread awareness about the center.

The DHWI and other services are all part of a larger focus, Allison says. “This is about understanding the communities you serve and how you can best meet those needs. Coming up with unique and innovative ways to improve community health, lower health care costs and improve the health of the individual — it’s really around the Triple Aim.”

And with more than 18 collaborative partners, including the city of Dallas, the health system has a lot of eyes and ears out in the community to identify and help to address those needs.

"Type 2 diabetes isn’t exclusive to southern Dallas. This model, we believe, will be able to be replicated in other parts of the communities we serve. The institute really has turned into a destination around wellness, prevention, exercise and a how-to on avoiding diabetes,” he says.

Baylor Scott & White Health is one of this year’s winners of the American Hospital Association's (AHA) NOVA Awards. Each year, the AHA honors up to five programs led by association member hospitals as “bright stars of the health care field.”   

Winners are recognized for improving community health by looking beyond patients’ physical ailments, rooting out the economic and social barriers to care and collaborating with other community stakeholders. Visit AHA's website for more information.