by Kimberly South

Columbia resident Ernestine Jackson and her sisters, Linda and Henrietta, are like many sisters who spend a lot of time together. They talk for hours, shop, cook and can count on each other in times of need. But, most recently for these three ladies, it’s about sharing more than just conversations. They are counting on each other to stick to their healthy lifestyles. Despite thinking they were healthy, their health indicators revealed one of them was not.

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Ernestine Jackson

“I never knew anything about high cholesterol until I was older,” said Jackson. “I always had been active and I exercised. But when I got screened and saw that my cholesterol was high and my HbA1c was outside of a normal range, I knew I needed to change something.”

Jackson began Palmetto Health’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) in 2014 and two years later, is a shining example of healthy living. She attributes her success to not just the supportive team at Palmetto Health but also to her family, especially her sisters. “My numbers are back on track,” said Jackson. “I exercise three days a week and my sisters are there not just supporting and encouraging me, but they are doing classes and going through the diabetes program as well.”

She said she was motivated by knowing she was making good decisions about preventing chronic diseases and stroke, as she has family history of diabetes and stroke. She knew that doing nothing wasn’t an option. Even with the support, however, it’s easy to get off track. “I like being around people who are motivated like my sisters,” said Jackson. “Don’t think you can manage this by yourself. Have someone or a team of people hold you accountable and remind you of what needs to be done.”

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Jackson and her sisters, Linda and Henrietta

Shawnee Garrick, program manager for Palmetto Health’s DPP, says accountability is a major part of successful completion of the program and continuing a healthy lifestyle.

“We are here to teach them and show them the tools they need,” said Garrick. “It’s easy to learn the material we provide and,many times, it’s obvious what we need to do to stick to healthy foods and maintain a normal weight. The curriculum we use in DPP is part of a national partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It walks participants through a six-week program that explains nutrition, physical activity and motivation. But, the key to this, to any program, is how you can sustain the lifestyle. Motivation to stay healthy is so important.” In addition to the DPP, Palmetto Health provides tips and education about eating better, cooking healthy and staying physically active. Classes are offered throughout the year and are free and open to the public. In addition, free health screenings are provided for diabetes, cholesterol, prostate, breast and cervical cancer screenings.

If you need to get motivated on a healthy lifestyle, Jackson says it begins with the health screenings. “It’s about getting involved. Start with a screening and then get introduced to other helpful programs,” said Jackson. “And most important, know who your motivators are and keep them near. Surround yourself with people that care about you.” Jackson and her sisters are all involved in Palmetto Health’s community health programs, including DPP, exercise and nutrition classes.

To learn more about the screenings and services offered, visit PalmettoHealth.org/CommunityHealth or call 803-296-3070.