Stock photo by CDC/Unsplash


Special to The Dallas Examiner


“If this class was available in the earlier stages of my life, I probably wouldn’t be on dialysis now,” said Daris Lee, 49, Dallas, who lives in one of the at-risk ZIP codes identified by the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment developed by Parkland Health & Hospital System and Dallas County Health and Human Services.

The report confirmed that poverty, food deserts and lack of access to health care often go hand in hand with higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Dallas County ZIP codes identified by the CHNA with the greatest health disparities include 75210, 75211, 75215, 75216, 75217 and 75241.

Lee is attending weekly diabetes education classes led by Parkland diabetes educators held weekly at Bonton Farms in south Dallas. The class is one of several new initiatives launched by the system to extend health education and outreach into the at-risk neighborhoods identified by the CHNA.

“The classes have been so informative and educational. What this class is doing for me is equipping me with information to help me save my children and grandchildren from having to struggle with diabetes like I did. This program has been the biggest blessing for me and an even bigger blessing to the whole community,” Lee said.

In response to the findings of the assessment, Parkland has expanded both staff and community outreach efforts dedicated to diabetes screening and education in the areas at highest risk.

“The initiatives focus on screening more people and expanding awareness through targeted educational efforts at community locations in these neighborhoods,” said Jessica Hernandez, vice president of Community Integrated Health.

The new Parkland Diabetes CHNA team is a multidisciplinary group including Ann Christian-Dold, RN, certified diabetes care and education specialist; Mary Beth Robinson, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist; and Janeth Lopez Ferrusca, licensed master social worker. Additional team members still pending include a nurse navigator to support the specialty team and act as a diabetes advocate between Parkland’s Community Oriented Primary Care health centers and the community.

“Priority health areas for the team are diabetes education, risk screening and follow-up care, A1c testing and diabetes management, increasing medication adherence, increasing foot examinations and reducing amputation rates,” said Misty L. Jones, MPH, RD, LD, CDCES, recently appointed manager of Global Programs – Diabetes.

Although COVID restrictions have limited group activities this year, Jones said the CHNA Diabetes team has participated in some larger community health events such as Juneteenth at Bonton Farms and Lighthouse Church’s Body & Mind wellness event.

“Additional diabetes health activities are anticipated for the remainder of the year as we strive to promote active diabetes health participation within our community population,” Jones added.

Activities at Bonton Farms have included classes led jointly by Parkland’s diabetes care and education specialists (dietitian and nurse), social worker, hypertension nurse navigator, and behavioral health personnel. Classes focus on understanding health basics, healthy eating, smart shopping, budget-friendly recipes, meals in minutes, understanding food labels, exercise, understanding and managing stress, healthy coping skills, problem solving and navigating the health care system.

“We want to help individuals develop healthy lifestyle goals to prevent or take care of their diabetes and blood pressure, as well support healthy coping and a sense of well-being,” Jones said.

In addition to group classes, the team is dedicated to individual outreach.

“We want to hear their concerns and work together to meet the diabetes health goals and needs of the individuals within our communities. Our team has been created to act as a guide to those living with diabetes, to help them meet the challenge and be successful in the small steps so that larger health gains are obtained,” Jones explained.

Next steps will include more community outreach and partnerships with organizations within the priority ZIP codes.

“Our intention is to create a peer network supported by, but not reliant on, our team. This peer network will help motivate and propel their communities towards generational health gains,” Jones said.

To learn more, visit To learn more about Parkland’s Global Diabetes Program, visit or call 214-590-7219. For more information about living with diabetes, visit

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