*As published in New York Daily News, August 2012*
The annual Feria de Salud Festival will offer free health screenings and educate South Bronx residents this Saturday about diabetes, a disease that hits close to home for many residents in the borough.
Of the top 12 city neighbhorhoods with the highest diabetes rates, six of them are in the Bronx, according to the local chapter of the American Diabetes Association. In the Bronx, Mott Haven and Hunts Point have the highest diabetes rates.
For the festival, the American Diabetes Association of NYC is partnering with BigAppleRx, a program offering free prescription discount cards to help people get prescription medications for less money.
With this card, Bronxites can save about $831 a year on generic glucose control medications for diabetes, according to the city Department of Health.
“With the cost of prescription medication, especially in these difficult economic times, people literally have to choose between being able to afford their medication or being able to afford their rent, or food or child support,” said Paul Casali, with HealthTrans. The prescription discount card is being sponsored by the city Health Department and facilitated by HealthTrans.
Since its launch in May 2011, the prescription discount card has saved New Yorkers over $7 million as of July 2012. More than 200,000 prescription claims have been filed. According to the Health Dept., Bronx residents filed 23,000 claims for prescriptions and saved almost $636,000.
“It works just like a coupon you would take to the grocery store, except this coupon never expires and there’s no limit to the amount of times you can use it,” Casali said.
The discount cards save users about 53 percent on generic drugs and 15 percent on brand name drugs. Casali said anyone can get a card no matter their age, whether or not they have health insurance, and whether or not they live in New York City, since the card is honored in all states.
The card works for over the counter drugs, birth control pills, smoking cessations, and medical equipment such as wheel chairs, as long as the medications and equipment have valid prescriptions.
Casali said that diabetes is the highest prescribed for disease since people need to buy pills, insulin, blood testers and other medications to keep track of and treat the disease.
Diabetes hits close to home for Casali. His father, Primo Casali, dealt with the various costs of treating Type 2 diabetes for more than 30 years. He died in 2008 from a heart attack induced by his diabetes.
“I wish that the BigAppleRx card was around when he was,” Casali said.
“(The card) helps their quality of life, it helps them stay healthier. If we can provide that service and help New Yorkers achieve that then we’ve done our job at the end of the day.”
The Feria de Salud Festival will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in St. Mary’s Park (E. 146th St. and St. Ann’s Ave.). The event will also include musical performances and and cooking demonstrations.