Published on November 17, 2020

Healthpark Offers Programs to Combat Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month, a time when organizations across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes - a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. In Kentucky, it’s estimated that 475,000 (or 1 in 7 people) have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 158,000 people may have it but not know.

Those familiar with diabetes know the condition can cause nerve damage, problems with your eyes, neuropathy, heart disease, kidney disease and many more issues. Beyond the health implications, the disease can be very expensive. For those with diabetes, healthcare costs are more than two times greater than for those without. On average, they spend more on hospital stays, doctor visits and medicine.

Treating diabetes can also add up. Shelby Shelby, Owensboro Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, said they often see folks skipping doses or cutting back on their insulin due to inability to buy enough. The CDC found that in 2017 and 2018, nearly 18% of working-age adults with diabetes rationed their insulin by taking smaller doses, waiting to fill prescriptions, or skipping their insulin altogether.

While some risk-factors for diabetes are beyond control, like age, ethnicity and family history, there are prevention steps you can take if you think you may be at risk. According to Beth Cecil, Owensboro Health Manager of Community Wellness, there are three main things to focus on. “Look at your eating habits and change them if they’re not ideal, lose weight if you’re not at a healthy BMI and increase your daily physical activity level” She said. “Even a 5-to-10-percent weight loss helps.”

She suggests making healthier carbohydrate choices and eating smaller portions, as well as switching to fat-free or low-fat dairy and moderate portions of lean meats. “It’s a lifestyle change,” she said. “We’re seeing kids with type 2 diabetes because of eating junk and sugary drinks.”

But there’s hope - and help - for those ready to make a change. Cecil said the Owensboro Health Healthpark offers several programs to aid in lifestyle changes. They have six Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, either nurses or dieticians with additional diabetic-specific training, who can see patients. These specialists can educate individuals about their risks and develop a game plan to tackle high blood sugar. All they need is a referral from their primary care provider.

The Healthpark also offers the Exercise as Medicine program, an 8-week exercise plan to get those with diabetes risk-factors moving. For those wanting to focus on their food choices as well, the LifeSteps Weight Management class can help. They even offer a nationally-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program and a diabetes support group that met regularly before COVID-19.

Owensboro Health recently welcomed Dr. Betty Villafuerte, a board-certified endocrinologist with more than 30 years of experience in her field. There are many benefits to seeing an endocrinologist when you have diabetes. These specialists can help you gain control over the disease so that you maintain your health and develop a management plan that works for you. Your primary care provider may refer you to an endocrinologist if you’re having complications or trouble managing your diabetes.

“People don't always have symptoms,” Cecil said. “It’s a good idea to see your healthcare provider every year and check your lab work. If you have diabetes, find someone who can help educate you on managing it.”

For more information on programs and education at the Healthpark, email Beth Cecil at or call 270-688-3252. Ask your primary care provider for a referral if you’re interested in an appointment with Dr. Villafuerte, or call 270-688-3500 for more information.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.