Sussex County’s three major hospitals are joining forces in the fight against diabetes and breast cancer.

Sussex County’s three major hospitals are joining forces in the fight against diabetes and breast cancer.

Executives from Milford Memorial Hospital, Beebe Medical Center in Lewes and Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford announced the collaborative Healthier Sussex County initiative in Georgetown on Wednesday.

“I think this is unique for our industry for all the hospitals in one county to cooperate in this way,” said Terry Murphy, the president and CEO of Bayhealth Medical Center, which operates Milford Memorial. “We’re all interested in the same thing and we think we can do it better by working together.”

To that end, the hospitals are launching joint-initiatives designed to increase the number of Sussex County residents who receive diabetes testing and mammography screenings.

“It made sense to start where, as a system, we could have the greatest impact, so we identified areas that easily lend themselves to the idea of our hospitals working together,” said Jeffrey Fried, the president and CEO of Beebe Medical Center.

Healthier Sussex County’s diabetes initiative is a one-year pilot program in which HgbA1C testing, which provides valuable information about blood sugar, will be made available at 10 primary care practices throughout the county. A complete listing of those practices soon will be made available at

The initiative also aims to increase attendance in diabetes education and self-management programs, hospital officials said.

Steven Rose, president and CEO of Nanticoke Health Services, said the diabetes initiative was chosen because the percentage of Sussex County residents diagnosed with the disease rose from 9.9 percent in 2008 to 11.6 percent in 2010. Nearly 70 percent of the county’s adult population also is overweight or obese, which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

“Those are significant and alarming numbers,” he said. “That’s why education is so important. It’s a huge challenge for us and something we need to tackle here in Sussex County.”

The hospitals on Wednesday also announced the launch of a joint mammography screening initiative that will target specific high-risk populations through a partnership with organizations such as the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, the First State Community Action Agency and La Red Health Center in Georgetown.

Murphy said that while Delaware has one of the nation’s highest rates for mammography screenings, those rates are significantly lower among minorities, the uninsured or under insured and Medicare patients.

Sussex County also has a breast cancer incidence rate of 128.3 cases per 100,000 women, compared to the national average of 124.3.

To help increase the rate of mammography screenings among the targeted populations, Healthier Sussex County will begin holding a series of education seminars at local colleges and universities, churches and community organizations this fall.