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Helping our community achieve its healthcare goals

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By Cheryl Schlichte, BS, Healthy Lee Program Manager

At the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness from left to right, Dyan Ruby Director Community Impact, American Heart Association, Antoinette Kruse, President Providence Family Life Center and Center for Integrative Health and Wellness, and Annette McClenahan, Lee Health Solutions Outpatient Diabetes Supervisor.

Good partnerships can make the difference between “there’s so many obstacles” and “we got this!”

I experienced the latter when I recently spoke with Antoinette Kruse, DSW-C, MSW, president and founder of Providence Family Life Center, about her goal to improve access to diabetes care and other chronic conditions for people of color and the underserved in our community.

I’d reached out to Antoinette because at the Healthy Lee Lifestyle Coalition (HLLC), Weight & Diabetes is one of our strategic initiatives. HLLC connects organizations like Providence Family Center (PFC) with other community partners to help develop programs that address unmet healthcare needs in the community.

Earlier this year, Antoinette opened the Center for Integrative Health and Wellness as a resource for community members struggling to access health care services. In her work both as a researcher and as a social worker, she’s seen the challenges lack of access to healthcare poses in vulnerable patient populations.

“I’ve always been moved by the data, which inspires me to continue working to bridge the gaps of healthcare availability in our community,” Antoinette says. But her investment in the health and welfare of communities goes deeper than that. She faces her own chronic healthcare challenges. In 2020, Antoinette learned she that she was prediabetic; requiring her to make lifestyle changes. “ I really want to educate my grandchildren on our health history so that they can understand chronic disease and make healthy lifestyle choices in the future.”

Understandably, some people run from a healthcare scare; Antoinette ran towards hers by doubling down on her mission to educate, support, and empower vulnerable populations with chronic disease. As with diabetes, she knows it increases her risk for developing many other health challenges, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and kidney issues.

So when HLCC reached out to Antoinette, she welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with HLLC to improve access to prevent chronic healthcare diseases, including diabetes care and education. The Center now offers Wellness Wednesdays, where community members can receive a chronic disease screening with an ARNP or a doctor.

The Center also offers other wellness screenings for lifestyle chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, COPD and diabetes. (Go here to schedule a screening.)

Improving Access to Health Care and Healthcare Literacy
Healthy Lee Lifestyle Coalition also offers other initiatives, including developing programs that educate our community about chronic diseases, help them improve their access to healthcare and improve their healthcare literacy.

With that in mind, we also contacted HLLC member Dyan Ruby, director of community impact with the American Heart Association (AHA), about the possibility of providing the Center’s members with glucometers and testing supplies. We knew from experience that Dyan and the AHA have a passion for educating vulnerable populations about healthcare and how to monitor their chronic diseases to improve their quality of life. Previously, AHA generously donated blood pressure monitors to participants in Antoinette’s Center.

As for our request for glucometers and testing supplies, Dyan’s response was inspiring!

“The collaboration with HLLC and the Center to help control and manage diabetes is a great fit,” she says. “Diabetes fits under AHA’s five pillars of health: Nutrition, Chronic Disease, Women’s Health, COVID-19 and Tobacco & Vaping. The American Heart Association encourages people to take ownership of their health and aims to support them by offering solutions.”

HLLC brought about another community collaboration when Annette McClenahan, Lee Health Solution’s Outpatient Diabetes Supervisor, teamed with Antoinette to create the Diabetes Boot Camp course at the Center for Health and Integrative Wellness Center.

Participants who attend this educational seminar will learn:

  • About the role of diabetes medications
  • How to monitor blood sugar
  • How to problem-solve diabetes related issues
  • How to develop an achievable exercise program
  • How to use glucometers and testing supplies

Participants who don’t have one will receive a diabetes testing kit that includes a glucometer, testing strips, solution, lancets and a sharps box, courtesy of the AHA and a gracious benefactor.

Annette says the initiative “meets the community where they’re at,” adding that “when people go through the education process, their risks for other diseases decrease, too. Knowledge is power, and our goal is to empower people with education so they can take control of their health. By choosing lifestyle choices that benefit their health and wellness, people with diabetes can improve their quality of life.”

We’re excited to work with Antoinette and the Center for Health and Integrative Wellness! It’s collaborations like this that unites our community in health.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Healthy Lee Lifestyle Coalition please reach out to to make the connection!

Providence Family Life Center
Center for Health and Integrative Wellness
3592 Broadway, Ste 100
Fort Myers, FL 33901.