Nov 2, 2023 - World

Diabetes prevention program for Latinos is headed to Texas and Georgia

Illustration of a red cross multiplying into many red crosses.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A pilot program that helped hundreds of Latinos in Florida lower their odds of developing Type 2 diabetes is expanding to Georgia and Texas.

Why it matters: On average, U.S. Hispanics have a 50% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, and tend to do so at a younger age than people in other demographics, according to CDC data.

  • Latinos with Type 2 diabetes are also more prone to having complications such as kidney failure or diabetes-caused vision loss.

What to know: Genetics and low access to health care and nutritious food contribute to Latinos' high diabetes rates.

  • The program from the Hispanic Federation aims to tackle prediabetes — when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but below the diabetes threshold — through lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity.
  • The Hispanic Federation today announced it partnered with the nonprofit United Health Foundation for a $3 million grant to expand the program to Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.

Details: The program in Florida recruited about 2,000 participants over the course of five years. The participants lost on average 9% of their body weight within a year, says Robert J. Edwards, director of health programs for the Hispanic Federation.

  • Participants were given exercise plans with mobility restrictions taken into account, Edwards says.
  • Through partnerships with food banks, the program helped supplement nutrition for participants who lived in food deserts (areas with no grocery stores nearby).
  • Cultural considerations were also key, Edwards adds. If participants spoke Spanish, for example, it was important to use terms for a certain food that Puerto Ricans, Panamanians, Venezuelans and Mexicans would understand.

What they're saying: The program has not only benefited direct participants, but also their communities, Edwards says.

  • "It shifted a narrative because people were talking to their families, friends, neighbors, saying: 'Hey, I'm down a pant size, if you wanna join me on this journey, this is what I'm doing,'" he says.

This story has been corrected to show Robert J. Edwards is the director of health programs for the Hispanic Federation, not just the Hispanic Federation's Florida office.

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