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Kate Long

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Three years ago, when West Virginia was leading the nation in diabetes, the American Diabetes Association shut down its West Virginia office.

Now, officials have decided to bring the organization back to West Virginia.
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A federally-funded health center, Cabin Creek Health Systems accepts patients whether they can pay or not. Freida Smith is one of their 14,000 patients.

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West Virginia is among the top five on just about every national chronic disease list. The state leads the nation in diabetes and obesity, according to the Gallup Healthways poll.

Surveys show that many West Virginians do not realize obesity is a leading cause of many chronic diseases. Many also feel those diseases are hereditary, and there is nothing a person can do to prevent them.

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One in six of Logan County's 36,700 residents is a diabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and there are many more who don't know they have it.

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Fifty-four-year-old Everette Ray Roberts was one of an estimated 69,000 West Virginians who have diabetes, but don't know it.

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For four hours, Bill Hall used to lie on a padded vinyl recliner, one arm stretched out, two thick needles sticking out of it. One needle drained the blood from his body. The other put it back.

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Glenda has no insurance. She makes $350 every two weeks. If she were diabetic, she could get insulin free through the clinic if she needed it, but not the diabetic finger sticks and testing strips, which cost about $45. "I can't afford to get diabetes," she said.

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Think about this: More than 200,000 West Virginians have contracted a disease that kills people. About 69,000 of them don't know they have it.

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Nationwide, schools with free breakfast for all report greater attention in class, fewer discipline problems, and fewer absent or tardy children.

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Last August, Kanawha County school cooks were abruptly ordered to quit serving prepackaged food and cook instead, from scratch, with fresh ingredients, five days a week. With fewer students eating, Kanawha County's food program is projected to make about $350,000 less than it did the previous year.

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