In Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood, people at risk for or living with diabetes can now access screening and counseling for free through a UC Davis clinic. But some Oak Park residents say that’s only a drop in the bucket when it comes to reducing health disparities.
The Imani Clinic has added diabetes screening and counseling to its list of free services in an effort to bring down high diabetes rates in Black and brown communities. The clinic is housed in the WellSpace Health building on Alhambra Boulevard, and is run by UC Davis students and supervising physicians.
African Americans living in Sacramento’s low-income ZIP codes, including Oak Park, visit the emergency room for diabetes-related issues at rates about 50% higher than the county overall, according to a 2016 report from the Sierra Health Foundation.
Student Rishi Sharma coordinates the new endocrine specialty clinic at Imani. He says the goal is to screen people for diabetes and diagnose it as needed, and to teach people about diet and exercise changes that could help prevent disease.
"Early management becomes very important,” he said. “One of the core aspects of this specialty clinic program is to reach out to pre-diabetic folks and kind of help them figure it out before it gets bad enough that it becomes irreversible.”
But neighborhood resident Chanowk Yisrael, of the nonprofit Yisrael Family Urban Farm, says that people may be distrustful of new providers or hesitant to take their advice.
“You see in my neighborhood the proliferation of different kinds of programs,” Yisrael said. “‘Oh, we’re gonna help you.’ And then they do. Well, until it’s time to graduate.”
Yisrael said Oak Park faces health disparities because of systemic racism, and that’s made it harder for residents to access healthy food.
“Really, it’s food apartheid if you think about it,” he said. “How is it that you have one neighborhood and you just jump over a street like Stockton Boulevard and then the housing prices go up ... and then all of a sudden you have a grocery store.”
Staff at Imani can help advise people on healthy eating and connect them to CalFresh, the state’s food assistance program for low-income residents. But Yisrael said access to food isn’t the only problem.
“Most of the time people can, if they want, get access,” he said. “The thing is, what are they gonna do with it when they get it?”
Yisrael says the neighborhood would benefit from cooking classes at community centers, taught by trusted leaders.
“The real thing that they need access to is education and the culturally appropriate ways of preparing some of these foods, and the historical context of these foods,” he said.
Sharma, of the Imani Clinic, says they plan to tailor diabetes counseling to Oak Park residents, and that staff are prepared to work with any social or environmental challenges that may be preventing patients from making healthier choices.
“There’s not enough access to nutrition, there are not enough grocery stores for people to shop at,” he said. “That’s one of the aftermaths of systemic redlining, gentrification, and restrictive covenants.”
The Imani Clinic is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2425 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento.
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