The University Record, October 15, 1996

United Way donations help ADA provide education, research for people with diabetes

Children with diabetes at Camp Midicha check their blood sugar. The camp is sponsored by the Michigan affiliate of the American Diabetes Association.

By Jared Blank


According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 8 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, a disorder in which the body does not produce enough insulin. The ADA also says that the same number live with the disease but have not been diagnosed.

Obviously, education is an integral part of ADA's fight against diabetes, says Martha Funnell, diabetes nurse educator at the U-M Diabetes Research and Training Center and president of the Michigan Affiliate of the ADA, an agency that receives funding from the United Way.

"People underestimate how serious a disease diabetes is---it's the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.," Funnell says. "This is why we need to educate. We need to let people know how serious it is, but that it is treatable." Diabetes is detectable through a simple blood test.

This is especially important in Michigan, which has one of the highest incidences of diabetes. Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and African Americans are high-risk groups for the disease and compose a sizable portion of the state's residents.

The ADA has an educational program focusing on African Americans, in which the organization distributes information through churches and sponsors free screenings in southeast Michigan. The affiliate also sponsors a summer camp for children and teens who have diabetes.

"Some people think you can just take an insulin shot and it goes away; this is not the case," says Patricia Barr, assistant manager of media in postgraduate medicine and a member of the board of directors of the Michigan Affiliate of the ADA. "The symptoms often come on slowly, so they aren't easily noticed. Education is very important," she adds.

Risk factors include:


Excess weight.


Lack of exercise.


Those older than 45 years of age.


Family history of diabetes.


Women who had babies weighing more than 9 pounds at birth.

Symptoms of the disease include extreme thirst, blurry vision from time to time, frequent urination, unusual tiredness or drowsiness, or unexplained weight loss.

The ADA adds that many cases of diabetes can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, eating low-fat foods and getting regular exercise.

In addition to education, advocacy, the camp and other programs, the ADA funds research investigating a cure for the disease. Two researchers in the Diabetes Research and Training Center currently are receiving ADA funds for their work.

Barr adds that much of the United Way contributions to the Michigan Affiliate of the ADA come back to the community through research, ADA publications and hotlines.

The U-M's $1 million United Way campaign continues through the end of the month. As of October 11, U-M employees had contributed $348,903.