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November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes is an international epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans, with another 79 million Americans living with pre-diabetes. Over 10% of all women in the US have diabetes, and the numbers have been rising quickly in recent years. In Israel, over 436,000 people have diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Foundation.

Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) is leading the field in addressing the diabetes epidemic – and approaching it from several different angles: molecular, medical, and behavioral. HMO's scientists are receiving research grants, advancing drug research, and working with communities to change their lifestyles.

Five researchers in Israel have received up to $130,000 each for Type 1 juvenile diabetes research, thanks to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF). These cell biologists are trying to crack into the most basic level of the disease. HMO researcher Dr. Benjamin Glaser is among the recipients; he is working on inducing beta cell replication in adult human cells. Lisa and Neil Wallack of Boston provided the seed grant for the JDRF-ISF Israel Initiative. Mrs. Wallack said, "The JDRF is impressed with the collaboration and cooperation among Israeli researchers across various institutions… Nothing would make us happier than finding the cure, and finding it in Israel."

In the biotech sector, an oral insulin pill has been cleared for Phase II research in the US after 30 years of research by HMO. This could be a big step for people living with diabetes around the world, saving them several injections per day in exchange for swallowing pills. The drug is made by Oramed Pharmaceuticals, a company partially owned by HMO. The drug functions by passing insulin through the liver before going into the bloodstream.

Meanwhile, HMO's Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Institute for Women has been working on an innovative, community-based program to reduce diabetes risks and improve the heart health of Arab and Haredi families in Jerusalem. Dr. Donna Zfat-Zwas is working on direct outreach to communities where obesity and nutrition are challenges to overcome for heart health. The program is partnering with community organizations and local leaders to provide internal and external motivations for changing attitudes around diet and exercise. Dr. Zfat-Zwas says, "The answer is not through fear or through a focus on the 'dark cloud' that looms over us, but rather to get women to embrace healthy lifestyles."

Additionally, Hadassah Hospital – Mount Scopus is running a support group for children with obesity, teaching them about overeating and the lifetime effects of obesity.

Though we may resonate with, "Libi b'mizrach," "my heart is in the East," Hadassah members all across the US are working to improve heart health for their communities and neighbors though Hadassah's innovative program, "Every Beat Counts: Hadassah's Heart Health Program." To learn more about Hadassah's comprehensive heart initiative, go to www.hadassah.org/everybeatcounts or contact health@hadassah.org.

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