The Tri-Village Lions Club this month will launch a new initiative it's undertaken this year to fight diabetes head-on through awareness and screenings.

Since its establishment in 1950, the Tri-Village Lions Club has sought to serve its communities, meet humanitarian needs and promote peace and international understanding through volunteerism and outreach.

As part of that, club members have taken up Helen Keller's challenge, made at the 1925 Lions Clubs International Convention, for the organization to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."

While still devoted to providing access to eyeglasses, eye exams and other sight services, the Tri-Village Lions Club this year has decided to focus on diabetes awareness and screening.

Plans are in place to train about one-fourth of the club's roughly 80 members to provide diabetes screenings, and they'll conduct them at community events in Upper Arlington, Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff throughout this year.

The Tri-Village Lions have integrated H.I.D.E -- Help Identify Diabetes Early -- into the club's logo, and its first community outreach program will be during the UA Volunteer Expo, slated for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 18 at the Upper Arlington Library main branch, 2800 Tremont Road.

"We want to declare war on diabetes," said Jane Jarrow, chairwoman of the Tri-Village Lions Club Service Committee. "These days, there isn't nearly enough going on in terms of prevention of diabetes.

"It's a worldwide epidemic. It's a silent killer, and that's why screening is so important."

According to the American Diabetes Association, 30.3 million Americans - or 9.4 percent of the population - suffered from diabetes in 2015. Of those, the ADA reported 7.2 million were undiagnosed.

The organization further states 12 million Americans aged 65 or older have diabetes, and 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed every year.

The Central Ohio Diabetes Association, a part of LifeCare Alliance, performs diabetes screening throughout the region.

However, its resources are limited and often it focuses efforts in low-income areas where diabetes education and there isn't ready access to healthcare, Jarrow said.

Therefore, Tri-Village Lions is partnering with CODA to expand its reach. CODA provides the screening training, and the Lions provide free screenings at community events.

"Our neighbors are just as threatened by this diabetes epidemic as (low-income) people and are also likely to be in the dark about it," Jarrow said. "We want to be places where there are people and say, 'While you're here, why don't you get checked?'"

At the UA Volunteer Expo and future events, Tri-Village Lions will provide forms and administer screenings. After club volunteers read results, they'll let individuals know if they should follow up with a doctor immediately or at their next scheduled visit.

"It takes less than five minutes and most of that is filling out a form," Jarrow said. "This is just a screening test ... but it's a chance for someone to find out if they should be concerned at this particular moment in time.

"Being there and doing the screening is also a way of reminding the community this is an issue they should be aware of."

Melinda Rowe, wellness director for LifeCare Alliance, said screening is important because diabetes can yield several complications, including life-threatening conditions, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and sight and foot problems.

"Screening and catching people that don't know they have high blood sugar is a wonderful approach to reaching out to the community," Rowe said. "I'm thrilled this is something new Tri-Village Lions is going to be focusing on and we're there to help them with anything they need."

Rowe agreed that screenings promote diabetes awareness, prevention and management, and said outreach programs like the one the Lions are establishing help people discuss their issues.

"The screenings, I feel, also open up a conversation to talking about their diabetes or their difficulties managing it," she said.

Jarrow said, through example, the Tri-Village Lions hope to spread the outreach program and provide screening resources to the other 31 Lions Clubs in Franklin County.

"We are leading the way for others to do this," she said. "We're just getting started."

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