Lions in Illinois Reduce Risk of Diabetes


When District 1 J was considering new ways to give back to their suburban Chicago community, Lion Jeri DiPasquale had an idea. At age 13, her son had been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, so her family knew all too well the needs of the diabetic community.

“As a parent, you always try to keep your child safe,” says DiPasquale. “You tell him not to run into the street and not to touch the hot stove. But a diagnosis of diabetes changes everything. You suddenly hold your child’s life in your hands. If you don’t give him his shot, he’s going to die.”

DiPasquale suggested to her club that they support diabetes prevention. The Lions of District 1 J teamed up with Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare (EMH) to develop a diabetes prevention and lifestyle intervention program by securing a $95,275 Core 4 Diabetes grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF). The project prevents diabetes by providing education and resources to low-income adults at risk of developing the disease.

We never would have gotten through this without the education and support we got from Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare,” says DiPasquale. “Thank you, LCIF, for making sure other families have access to this vital resource.”

Diabetes is a growing epidemic in both the United States and worldwide. Some 29 million American adults have diabetes. That includes an estimated 7 million who do not know that they have the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another 86 million Americans (more than 33 percent of adults) have prediabetes, which puts them at the highest risk of developing diabetes within the next five years. It is predicted that one in three Americans will have the disease by 2050 if current trends continue.

Now, with the help of local Lions, the new Diabetes Prevention and Lifestyle Intervention Program at EMH identifies underserved, financially strained and high-risk individuals who may have prediabetes. Those who screen positive for prediabetes are offered a free consultation with a diabetes educator at the hospital-based Learning Center. They can choose to enroll in a lifestyle-change program, based on the CDC curriculum designed to prevent or delay progression of Type 2 diabetes.

The program aims to educate participants with the ultimate goal of reducing the prevalence of diabetes. This is an expansive community outreach program that helps individuals identify their risks and develop a plan to minimize them.

Local Lions are integral to the success of the program. There are 64 Lions clubs in District 1 J and more than 2,300 members. The Lions function as community ambassadors by advocating for diabetes prevention. They facilitate informational meetings, help collect health data such as weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) measurements from participants, and host fundraising events.

With the help of Lions and LCIF, the target is for at least 65 percent of participants to lose weight, maintain that weight loss and experience a stabilization of the blood glucose level after completing the program. The Lions of District 1 J are working diligently to improve the health of their community and prove that an ounce of prevention is, indeed, worth a pound of cure.

For information on how your district can apply for a Core 4 Diabetes grant, visit

Above: Lion Jim Worden (left) discusses patient education with Julie Sanfilippo (center), a health coach with the Diabetes Prevention Program, and nurse Linda Voght (right), a certified diabetes educator at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare in Illinois.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of “LION Magazine.”

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