Caller-Times commits to making a difference in diabetes epidemic

Cost of Diabetes

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times has committed to a year-long project aimed at improving the lives of people in its community.  The series is called “Cost of Diabetes.”

“Diabetes is so ingrained here that people don’t even see it anymore,” said Rhiannon Meyers, reporter at the Caller-Times. “It’s a totally preventable disease, but people don’t see it that way.”

To address the diabetes crisis in Corpus Christi and the surrounding communities, the Scripps-owned newspaper, with coverage led by Meyers, reporter, Denise Malan, data/investigative editor and Allison Pollan, managing editor, will do enterprise stories at least one Sunday a month through the year, and archive the information on www.caller.com.

Shane Fitzgerald, editor, wrote the introduction to the year-long series:

It's far past time that this entire community — not just the dedicated handful who have been working hard for years — rolls up its sleeves and gets to work on addressing problems caused by diabetes. And we here at the Caller-Times aren't going to just stand on the sidelines.

Diabetes affects every person who lives in the Coastal Bend.

Yes, every single person.

In 2001, the area was ranked as having highest number of below-the-knee amputations per resident in the nation, an indicator of the depth of the diabetes problem.  The paper did a series of stories at that time.

Meyers“The ranking from the study solidified something that may have been known, but many people didn’t pay much attention to until then,” said Meyers (pictured right). “The community was pretty surprised and it was our wake-up call that we needed to do something, but fast forward to the same study from 2010 and the area was still ranked as third highest in the nation in the number of amputations.”

Editors had already decided to take on the year-long project, when it received some additional encouragement.

Last August, Meyers applied to the Association of Health Care Journalists fellowship program. Meyers and the Caller-Times was one of five media outlets nationally to be awarded the fellowship, which will provide money and training that it will dedicate toward this initiative.

Meyers attended the first training session in New York in early January.

“I am most excited about the mentoring from veteran journalists provided as a part of the fellowship as well as learning from experts in the field.”

A few weeks after the project’s launch, The Caller-Times is already getting a tremendous amount of feedback from the community.

“I’ve never, in my seven years as a journalist, had as much response from people willing to share very personal details as I have with this,” said Meyers. “They want to prevent other people from falling into the complications that they are dealing with.  It’s amazing and inspiring as well.”

Meyers and the entire staff at the Caller-Times hopes its readers will learn from the coverage, and be able to make better decisions for themselves and their loved ones.  Meyers even takes it a step farther.

“I really hope that this is something that other people across the country can look at and see how they can deal with diabetes in the community,” said Meyers.  “In this area, we have dealt with a high rate of diabetes for a long time, maybe we can help be a role model for other communities that are now starting to see a bigger influx of the disease.”