Program aims to change lifestyles: ‘I Can Prevent Diabetes’ pilot deemed a success
WORTHINGTON -- It isn't a diet, but rather a lifestyle change according to local nutrition educator Leticia Rodriguez. She is teaching a group of 12 women as part of an "I Can Prevent Diabetes" pilot program offered locally through the University...
WORTHINGTON - It isn’t a diet, but rather a lifestyle change according to local nutrition educator Leticia Rodriguez. She is teaching a group of 12 women as part of an “I Can Prevent Diabetes” pilot program offered locally through the University of Minnesota Extension Service’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education project (SNAP-Ed).
Rodriguez is one of several SNAP-Ed educators across the state trained in the Centers For Disease Control-recognized program, which aims to encourage people to change lifestyle habits through good nutrition and exercise to make them less susceptible to diabetes.
Funded by the Worthington Regional Healthcare Foundation through a grant request made to the Statewide Health Improvement Program, “I Can Prevent Diabetes” is offered free of charge to individuals who have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic and agree to have their blood glucose level checked.
The program requires participants to meet with the SNAP educator once per week for 16 weeks, and then continue with once-per-month check-ins for another six months.
Rodriguez began recruitment efforts for the class a year ago, initially working with JBS to offer a worksite program. When that idea ultimately fell through, she searched for recommendations from the local food shelf, mobile health clinics and events that drew Spanish-speaking people.
Her current class is offered in Spanish, while a second class, slated to begin in January, will be offered in English.
Now in the 13th week of the initial course, Rodriguez is seeing success. Between the 12 women in the program, they’ve lost a combined 35 pounds. The goal, she said, is for each individual to lose between 5 percent and 7 percent of her body weight.
In addition to teaching proper nutrition, the course requires individuals to keep journals noting everything they eat and drink each day, every day. That request proved challenging for two of her illiterate students, so they worked around it, printing out labels of common foods so the women could still track their calories and fat grams consumed.
The weekly meetings have created a support group-like atmosphere for the students.
While the initial focus of the meetings was nutrition, Rodriguez said they implemented physical activity by the fourth and fifth week of the program. Then, each participant had to track not just her food consumption, but also minutes of physical activity.
With winter and cold weather on the way, Rodriguez worked with the Worthington YMCA, ultimately assisting most of her students in filing paperwork to obtain financial assistance for membership to the facility.
“We’ve been meeting (at the YMCA) for the past four weeks,” Rodriguez said, adding that she presents an hour-long lesson plan to the class, and then they complete 45 minutes to an hour of physical activity with an instructor.
“For the most part, all of them got family memberships,” she said.
Working through barriers such as access to a warm place to exercise in the winter, helping the illiterate students track nutrition information, and finding child care for the moms who couldn’t leave their young children home during class time has not only benefited students in the class, but also brought more community partners together.
Rodriguez said the pilot project appears to be a success, but she’s quick to say it isn’t easy for the students.
“They struggle every day, but it is a lifestyle change,” she said. “They’re doing pretty good. I’m very proud of them.”
During the 16-week program, students are weighed each week. They received a food scale, measuring spoons and cups to weigh and portion their meals, as well as a pedometer,
Individuals interested in taking part in the next “I Can Prevent Diabetes” program in either English or Spanish are encouraged to call Rodriguez at 295-5318.
“It’s been very successful,” Rodriguez said of the initial class. “We will continue to offer the class … as long as we continue to get the grant for the materials.”