Mayors Kick Off Health Awareness & Early Detection Program to Reduce Health Disparities in Minority Communities


(April 2, 2014) – The mayors of Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls were among the first to receive diabetes screenings as part of a collaborative community initiative launched today by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), Lifespan, Walgreens, and WBRU. The wellness partnership aims to evaluate 500 residents through a series of six preventative health screenings in April, May and June as part of a broader effort to reduce healthcare disparities in Rhode Island’s Latino and African American communities.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, and Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien were screened for diabetes at Providence City Hall by Dr. Hari Bhatt, Endocrinology & Diabetes Specialist at the Hallett Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, and Lifespan. Nearly 20 percent of adult African Americans and 13 percent of Hispanic adults have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.

“Diabetes is preventable for people who do not have it and treatable for those who do,” said Mayor Taveras. “We encourage all Providence residents to take advantage of this opportunity to get screened and learn more about how to take control of their health.”

“I am honored to be partnering with my fellow urban municipal leaders, Mayor Taveras and Mayor Grebien, to bring awareness to the importance of diabetes screenings,” said Mayor Diossa. “It’s crucial that we continue to lead by example for our residents and advocate for healthy living.”

“Taking this simple test will lead to greater early detection of diabetes, which affects so many people today and disproportionately affects our minority community,” said Mayor Grebien. “I applaud this preventive outreach effort and am pleased to be participating with Mayor Diossa and Mayor Taveras to help bring more attention to the vital importance of early diabetes testing, particularly in our urban areas.”

Diabetes, if left untreated, can cause health complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and limb amputations resulting from poor circulation to hands and feet. Dyslipidemia and hypertension are also common and damage the heart. These conditions do not always exhibit symptoms, making it critical for anyone with risk factors to get screened regularly.

“Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is committed to efforts that promote preventative care.” said Tracey Cohen, Medical Director of BCBSRI. “Diabetes, as well as hypertension and other heart conditions, cause serious short- and long-term health problems, and disproportionately affect minority communities in our state. Early detection can be the key to a long and healthy life, and we’re doing all we can to encourage residents to make a commitment to their health and get screened.”

“Every day our doctors and nurses treat patients and families with diabetes and the complications of this disease.  Lifespan Community Health Services is pleased to collaborate with our partners to focus on reaching our diverse communities that may not otherwise have access to life save screening,” said  Julie Rawlings, minority outreach specialist for Lifespan Community Health Services. “Initiatives such as this will inform us of steps that may to be taken in order to support a healthier community.  We strongly encourage Rhode Islanders to get screened for themselves and their loved ones.”

Patients identified as high risk will receive referrals as needed, as well as a voucher for a free glucometers at Walgreens. Screening sessions will be held at the following locations:

Monday, April 14, 9 AM – 12 PM                  
Dorcas International Institute
645 Elmwood Avenue
Providence, RI 02907

Wednesday, April 30, 5 PM – 8 PM
Calcutt Middle School/ Progresso Latino
112 Washington Street
Central Falls, RI 02863

Saturday, May 17, 9 AM – 12 PM
Southside Cultural Center
393 Broad Street
Providence, RI 02907

Wednesday, May 28, 5 PM – 8PM
Genesis Center
620 Potters Ave
Providence, RI 02863

Saturday, June 14, 9 AM –12 PM
Ebenezer Baptist Church
475 Cranston Street
Providence, RI 02907

Saturday, June 28, 9 AM –12 PM
Blackstone Valley Community Center
39 East Avenue
Pawtucket, RI 02860

On-air promotion for the program has been donated by WBRU and Latino Public Radio.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is the state’s leading health insurer and covers more than 600,000 members. The company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @BCBSRI.

About Lifespan

Lifespan ( is a five-partner not-for-profit health care system based in Providence, R.I. Formed in 1994, Lifespan includes three teaching hospitals of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University: Rhode Island Hospital and its Hasbro Children’s Hospital; The Miriam Hospital; and Bradley Hospital, the nation’s first psychiatric hospital for children. It also includes Newport Hospital, a community hospital offering a broad range of health services, and Gateway Healthcare, the state’s largest provider of community behavioral health care.  Lifespan teaching hospitals are among the top recipients in the country of research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The hospitals received nearly $81 million in external research funding in fiscal 2012. All Lifespan-affiliated partners are charitable organizations that depend on support from the community to provide programs and services.

About Walgreens

As the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2013 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens ( vision is to be the first choice in health and daily living for everyone in America, and beyond. Each day, Walgreens provides more than 6 million customers the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice in communities across America. Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers and the public sector. The company operates 8,209 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of worksite health and wellness centers, provider practices, and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 750 locations throughout the country.

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