Health allies fight diabetes in western Sydney

`Healthy Living Toongabbie’ is an initiative that is bringing together doctors, pharmacists, and allied health professionals in western Sydney to work as a team and help people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and those living with it make better choices.

Led by president and Discount Drug Stores owner, Monica Boules, the non-profit group holds regular forums, online events and in-person shopping centre visits to help educate and empower local residents to better manage the disease.

Ms Boules says that working as a pharmacist in the heart of Toongabbie in Sydney’s west, opened her eyes to how widespread the disease is and prompted her to join forces with other like-minded professionals to take action.

“I opened my Toongabbie Discount Drug Store four years ago and quickly came to realise just how many people in the area are undiagnosed and at risk of diabetes, or who are living with it but don’t know how to manage it,” says Ms Boules.

“That’s when I knew I had to get involved with other doctors in the area to help turn things around – it’s only by working together across practices that we can start building a healthier community on the whole. We started by doing local shopping centre visits, where people could sit down with a health professional and get personalised advice. The first forum we ran in 2019 saw 250 locals attend, which just goes to show how much the community needed access to this kind of information.

“A lot of my customers and the residents we speak to are of the South East Asian descent and know they are at high risk. However, they are often surprised to learn that diabetes is easily managed, and they can live a better life by just changing a few lifestyle factors.”

`Healthy Living Toongabbie’ now has more than 20 health experts involved in the group and have shifted to online events in order to continue helping the community during Covid-19 restrictions.

“Type 2 diabetes is increasingly occurring among younger generations, so running a series of online events and forums as a result of Covid-19 restrictions has allowed us to better reach that age group and get our message out wider,” says Ms Boules.

“Our next virtual event is [today] Thursday, 25 March about gestational diabetes. It’s a great opportunity to hear from an endocrinologist and dietician about what practical steps you can take in your pregnancy journey, and have your questions answered with a live Q&A – not to mention connect with new people going through the same thing and get your body moving with an interactive Zumba session!”

For more information and to view previously recorded sessions, visit: facebook.com/healthylivingtoongabbie/

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