In South Texas, the human suffering and medical expenses of a third of the population living with type 2 diabetes is catastrophic. For people who have diabetes but lack medical coverage, it costs approximately $0.2 million per year for sporadic, intensive emergency room visits for dialysis during the last 3 years of life.

In hopes of reversing this trend, Ann Millard, Ph.D, will begin a walking group and healthy eating program led by promotoras de salud (Community Health Workers) in the colonias of Weslaco, Texas. An associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health McAllen Campus, Millard will continue her work through a 2-year $342,000 grant awarded from the Knapp Community Care Foundation.

“Although many local people know they could enhance their health by improving eating and exercise patterns, few realize that these changes can reverse the type 2 diabetes epidemic,” Millard said. “The onset of diabetic symptoms in people at risk can be prevented and delayed so that they can lead healthy lives without amputations and blindness.”

The 2-year project will target 840 women and their household members, potentially impacting almost 2,000 people. Participants will be from the general population rather than those currently suffering from diabetes, in hopes of promoting early prevention.

Promotoras will engage with neighborhood groups of 10 women each in eight weeks of health education including ongoing follow-up contact. The project will provide lessons and activities in healthy eating and physical activity and encourage participants to engage in walking groups five days a week.

“We expect that the immediate value of the project will be social support and enjoyment in gathering weekly with neighbors, and that this interaction will be the major source of motivation to continue the healthy eating and exercise patterns being initiated,” Millard said. “Early intervention is key to reducing rampant diabetes rates in South Texas.”

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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