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Healthy South Texas event focuses on keeping diabetes at bay

Community members rally to build diabetes awareness through a 5K walk/run
Feet of a couple running on a pathway

Texas A&M Healthy South Texas recently held its second annual Keeping Diabetes at Bay 5K Walk/Run in Corpus Christi to help bring awareness to the diabetes epidemic in the southern part of the state.

Diabetes is more common in underserved communities where there is a lack of resources and medical attention to address chronic diseases.

More than 100 people representing Nueces and San Patricio counties participated in the event, which began and ended at Cole Park Pier. Walkers and runners were motivated by cheers from family and friends, as well as by members of the Moody High School drum line and cheerleading squad.

start line of the Keeping Diabetes at Bay 5K walk/run on the seawall of Corpus Christi Bay
View of participants at beginning of 5K Walk/Run for Keeping Diabetes at Bay event at Cole Park Pier in Corpus Christi, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

Healthy South Texas and diabetes awareness

Healthy South Texas is a collaboration between Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas A&M Health. The initiative seeks to help prevent and reduce the impact of some of the most prevalent diseases in a 27-county area, including diabetes.

“Healthy South Texas organizes health-related community events that are both fun and educational, and the recent Keeping Diabetes at Bay 5K Walk and Run was one of those events,” said Starr Flores, director of the Coastal Bend Health Education Center, part of Texas A&M Health and a partner in Healthy South Texas.

Flores said because November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, they saw the event as an opportunity for the community to come together to learn about diabetes and promote healthy lifestyles. However, she added, because the disease is so prevalent in South Texas, there is a year-round need to continue to promote diabetes awareness.

Event participation and the Diabetes Education Program

Joshua Laudig, the center’s fitness coordinator who oversaw the event, said participants came from the community as well as the Healthy South Texas Diabetes Education Program. The program is a free eight-month program for adults with nongestational diabetes or prediabetes.

“Many of our program participants were really happy we held an event in which they could participate,” he said. “Physical activity is an important part of overall wellness efforts, and walking is something almost anyone can do. In diabetes education, we emphasize the importance of regular physical activity as a way to help prevent or reduce the impact of the disease.”

Juanita Garcia, registered nurse and manager for the Diabetes Education Program of Healthy South Texas, was a planning committee member and helped recruit event sponsors and community participants. She said the event’s main goal was to bring diabetes awareness to the participants and the community and let them know the value of being physically active.

“We also wanted to bring the message that while some people may be genetically predisposed for diabetes, having the disease doesn’t have to be a lifelong burden,” she said. “There’s a lot you can do to reduce the complications from diabetes and live a full life. One of those ways is by being physically active and having a healthy lifestyle.”

Garcia said she was happy to see many young event participants, and the students from Moody High School were present to cheer the runners/walkers.

“It’s never too early to be aware of diabetes and its impact on the community,” she said.

This year’s event sponsors included Nueces County Judge Connie Scott, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, South Texas Endocrinology and Metabolism Center, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, South Central Area Health Education Center, Dexcom G7 and AEP Texas.

Participant and community benefits

Ismael Loa, 71, of Corpus Christi, who has prediabetes, participated in the event’s over-60 age group.

“I participated last year as well, and 5K was the right distance for the over-60 age group,” Loa said. “This year, they had a high school band and a DJ who played upbeat music to keep everyone motivated. I even saw couples with strollers and families with young children.”

Loa said he wasn’t physically active when younger, but now he works out at the local YMCA and walks 6 miles a week.

“You can start small,” he said. “Get out there and get some fresh air. It’s 100% better than going to a gym.”

Loa said he, his brother and his sister all participate in the Diabetes Education Program.

“It’s an inspiring program and gives you the opportunity to meet other people,” he said. “It’s free and you get a personal trainer. What else could you ask for?”

Catherine Hall, 52, won a medal for being the fastest in the 50-55 age group.

“I invited a friend to join in and she enjoyed it,” Hall said. “We both enjoyed the scenery and nature.”

She said as someone with prediabetes and sore knees, her primary physical activity is walking.

“Participating in this event made me feel I achieved something,” she said. “It’s never too late to start. You can start at home and walk around the house to add steps into your day. I’d love to participate in next year’s 5K.”

Hall also participated in the Diabetes Education Program.

“In the program, they teach you about checking calories and cholesterol levels and reading nutrition labels,” she said. “They also teach you about food portions and how to be healthier with food and exercise.”

Physical activity and preventing, reducing instances of diabetes

Flores said along with diabetes education, Healthy South Texas offers additional programs encouraging people to be more physically active and improve their health, including Walk Across Texas, StrongPeople Strong Bodies, and Wellness in Motion.

“These programs are tailored to fit different needs and preferences, and help people establish the habit of regular exercise,” Flores said. “And they align with our goals of empowering South Texas communities to be more physically active as a way to help reduce the prevalence and consequences of preventable diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Healthy South Texas programming, visit https://healthytexas.tamu.edu/south-texas/.

This story originally appeared on AgriLife Today.

Media contact: Dee Dee Grays, grays@tamu.edu, 979.436.0611

Cynthia Castaneda, AgriLife Communications

Program Assistant

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