On September 1st, Dr. Toni Flowers presented at the Black Health Matters Summit on healthy living to combat the epidemic of diabetes in South Carolina. Dr. Flowers is Vice President and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer of Roper St. Francis and has been recognized for her many achievements not only in healthcare but also for her efforts to create and promote diversity in healthcare systems. Among her many achievements, she was honored by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for her work in developing and implementing a statewide program that achieved the greatest national reduction in healthcare disparities within 3 short years. She is a nurse, medical anthropologist as well as a licensed minister. Black Health Matters was pleased to have her present on nutrition and diabetes and what South Carolinians can do to improve their outcomes when managing diabetes.
Dr. Flowers began her presentation with addressing the population of people most affected by diabetes. One in five adults with annual household incomes less than $15,000 has diabetes. South Carolina had the 7th highest prevalence of diabetes among adults in the nation in 2014, with approximately one in four over the age of 65 diagnosed. These shocking yet real statistics revealed to the audience the impact diabetes has not only across the globe but in their own state.
The audience was gasped when Dr. Flowers shared that between 2005-2016, 51% of those admitted to Roper St. Francis had diabetes as their principle concern. She shared that the other percentage could be a few sweet teas away from having diabetes outright.
Digging deeper into the types of people with diabetes, Dr. Flowers shared that approximately one in six African Americans has diabetes, compared to one in nine Caucasian adults in South Carolina. As there are many different ways to live with diabetes, she highlighted the benefits to leading a healthy lifestyle by excluding and introducing certain foods into your diet as an essential strategy for the management of diabetes.
“It is expensive to eat healthy and often organic foods seem to cost the most”, remarked Dr. Flowers. “There are ways to mitigate the cost of eating fresh vegetables and that is by growing your own produce. Charleston, has almost 10 months of warm weather. Growing one’s own produce is a cost-effective way to eat healthier”, she continued. Many African Americans live in food desserts. There is minimal produce available and when it can be found it is both expensive and not fresh.
Dr. Flowers shared that good nutrition starts at a young age. She taught her daughters how to shop for juice boxes by reading labels. They played a game in which she charged them with finding something tasty to drink that didn’t have high fructose corn syrup. Needless to say, it was a process but they learned that sweeteners are added to our foods and beverages to a degree that makes these products agents for weight gain when consumed regularly. “Almost everything has high fructose corn syrup”, her daughters lamented.
One drink that Dr. Flowers “created” and shared with her daughters was Pretty Water. She taught the girls how to make it and it is one of their favorite beverages. Pretty Watercontains mint, strawberries and lemon. They often substitute different fruit based on what is in season. Using a variety of fruits keeps this recipe interesting to the girls.