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Walden Magazine // Jan 01, 2011

Combating Diabetes from Decatur to Dakar

Two award recipients share their approaches.

It’s the sixth leading cause of death in America and some 246 million people live with it worldwide. During the 2009 Scholars of Change video contestPhD in Public Health graduate Dr. Tina Ann Cloney and student Mary Morrissey-Ross received grand prize recognition for their work to prevent and treat diabetes in two very different communities.

Community served

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Decatur, Illinois
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Dakar, Senegal


  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Nurse practitioner

Community risks

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Obesity rates in this small Illinois town are steadily climbing, and there aren’t any comprehensive community programs to help people effectively manage their diabetes.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: This developing country lacks national healthcare and affordable medication, and most people here never receive preventative healthcare during their lifetimes.

The first step

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Cloney approached administrators at Decatur Memorial Hospital (where she works in the wellness division) with a proposal to design a community diabetes program.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Morrissey-Ross partnered with a Senegalese health association to conduct diabetes screenings and brief local doctors on how to refer their patients for screenings and follow-up care.

Primary goals

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Help members of the Decatur community manage diabetes and prevent diabetes-related complications.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Develop a sustainable method to prevent, identify, and treat diabetes in Dakar.

Treatment tools

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Small group classes and individual counseling sessions on diabetes management.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Machines for measuring blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

Community participation

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Diffusion: one community member empowering others through knowledge.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Alliances with community doctors who refer their patients, and word of mouth.


  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Decatur Memorial Hospital provides staff and resources.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: The International Diabetes Federation provides funds and health education materials, and Ross spearheads a community fundraising campaign in the U.S.

Continuing the mission

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: The American Diabetes Association now recognizes the program, which has expanded to serve home health agencies, and is planning to add a prediabetes component.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Morrissey-Ross has trained people in Senegal to conduct screenings while she is out of the country, and provides blood sugar machines and additional equipment.

Personal obstacle

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Not acting earlier. Cloney was concerned to learn some of her patients have lived with diabetes for more than 30 years, yet never had the opportunity to get help until recently.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: The language barrier. Morrissey-Ross always has a translator with her while meeting with patients and conducting screenings.

Biggest impact of the program

  • Dr. Tina Ann Cloney: Extreme weight loss and a reduction of the risk of diabetes in Decatur.
  • Mary Morrissey-Ross: Identifying people with diabetes who did not know they were living with the disease.