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Family and Friends can Help Manage or Prevent Diabetes in Hispanic Communities


CDC Supports Research Aimed at Improving Health

About 2.5 million (9.5 percent) Hispanic Americans age 20 or older struggle with diabetes in the United States. Three Prevention Research Centers (PRC) funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – The University of Arizona’s Southwest Center for Community Health, the San Diego Prevention Research Center, and the University of Illinois at Chicago Prevention Research Center – are working to reverse the trend and ultimately eliminate health problems such as diabetes and obesity that disproportionately affect Hispanic communities.

Approaches being tested focus on how families and friends can help people start or keep doing things that will help prevent diabetes. The current research is evaluating family involvement, walking clubs and other things that foster physical activity, and teaching people to be health coaches.

“The studies being done by our Prevention Research Centers involving Hispanic communities in Arizona, San Diego, and Chicago are looking for ways that people can help family members and friends stay healthy,” said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “If we hope to significantly reduce the number of people suffering from diabetes and obesity, we need family members and others to get involved. The research being done here is helping to identify the best and most effective ways that people can help others become and stay healthy.”

The CDC funds 33 Prevention Research Centers that work with communities as well as design and conduct research on innovative ways to promote health and reduce or prevent chronic diseases, particularly among populations disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases. After the programs are designed and evaluated, they are made available for use by other communities throughout the United States. The work being done by the Prevention Research Centers is an important part of CDC’s goals to help improve the health of individuals, families, and communities across the nation, Collins said.

In the Arizona, San Diego, and Chicago projects, the research efforts center on finding specific ways that family members and social groups can help manage or prevent diabetes in Hispanic communities.

For instance, the Arizona’s research program, Diabetes and the Family, teaches people with diabetes how to manage the disease. In addition, parents, children, siblings, and other relatives learn how to help their loved ones diagnosed with diabetes and to take steps to lower their own risks of developing the disease. Family members encourage each other in eating well and being active.

“One of the things we’ve learned is that if you want to get more people in the Hispanic community involved in health promotion activities, it is vital to focus on the entire family,” said Guadalupe X. Ayala, Ph.D., MPH, research director at the San Diego Prevention Research Center, which leads the Prevention Research Centers’ Latino Health Network. “When you work with multiple generations concurrently, you improve the chances of successfully turning lives around to adopt healthier habits and to improve health.”

The San Diego center is studying ways to increase physical activity in a California-Mexico border town by creating walking clubs for adults and soccer leagues for children who cannot afford community leagues.

The Illinois center is focusing on residents of a largely Hispanic neighborhood where rates of inactivity, obesity, and diabetes are high. They are being trained to be healthy living coaches by teaching diabetes prevention at churches, schools, and work sites.

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