The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health chose eight cities across the nation to participate in offering the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Pasco, Washington was one of the designated cities, largely due to the increasing prevalence of diabetes in the predominantly Hispanic community, as well as the lack of Spanish-language disease prevention programs.
Tri-Cities Community Health (TCCH) has spearheaded the Diabetes Prevention Program since 2017, offering participants a healthy lifestyle change option based upon healthy eating and physical activity. The goal over the next 5 years is to enroll 150 participants per year, help them lose 5%-7% of their body weight (measured from the date of enrollment) and encourage them to exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
Our diabetes educators and lifestyle coaches recruit participants at churches, health fairs, orchards, PTA meetings, farmer’s markets, parades, festivals, and flea markets, as well as at all eight of our health centers. Each applicant must commit to participate for one year. Outreach efforts have resulted in the enrollment of 300 participants over the past two years. The program has gained so much popularity that our retention rate is above average compared with other cities, resulting in a long waiting list. We attribute much of the success not only to our enthusiastic team of lifestyle coaches and diabetes educators but also due to the collaboration and support from our providers and the community. Local markets and grocery stores sponsor our cooking classes. TCCH and community partners worked together to create an on-site gym, available to our participants at no charge. During the first part of the program, participants learn how to eat healthy, without giving up all the foods they like, add physical activity to their lifestyle, manage stress and anxiety, face the challenges that can make their new lifestyle fail, (such as eating out) and how to take back control through the up and down periods. The second part of the program reinforces the skills they have learned enabling them to continue along a healthier path. Participants learn in the classroom setting how to read food labels and the impact that saturated fats, salt or sodium, cholesterol, and sugar have in their diets. They also expand their taste buds by trying new ingredients such as couscous, quinoa and tofu, while making the decision to limit drinking sodas in favor of water. To support healthy lifestyles, we get together to hike our local high point Badger Mountain and traverse the Tri-Cities system of trails, go grocery shopping and even cook together. Armed with newfound information and tools for improving their health, our participants are now making appointments for wellness exams and lab work to detect and prevent diabetes.
The results have been staggering. Graduates of our first-year class lost a total of 900 pounds with total weight loss from participants to date now at 1805 pounds and an average of 134 minutes of exercise per week.
While the numbers and statistics clearly point to the program’s success, it is the individual stories that best illustrate the value and impact that the Diabetes Prevention Program is having in our community.
Maria lost 40 pounds in 5 months. Last week she was excited to find low carb, high fiber corn tortillas, and shared that information with the group.
Jesus lost 70 pounds in his first year in the program. He is the only one in a family of seven that does not have diabetes. His mom and sister both passed away due to this disease. Now he comes to the gym, monitors his physical activity, and takes salads or fruits to parties and BBQs instead of soda, cupcakes and chips.
Nicolas wakes up at 3 AM to work at an asparagus farm. He is done at 2 PM, and by 4 PM, he is in our class to finish his day with 45 minutes on an elliptical exercise machine. He has lost 17 pounds and his blood pressure has never been lower in the last 10 years.
Rosy lost 72 pounds in one year. Before starting in our program, she was trying to save money to go to Mexico for bariatric surgery. She no longer drinks soda, walks an hour every day and eats smaller portions. Rosy feels beautiful and confident. She decided to apply for a full-time, year-round job after being a farm worker for 5 years.
We are proud to be part of a life-changing program, aimed at transforming our community into a healthier place to live.
Author’s Biographical Information:
Gaby Araico is a Registered Dietitian and currently works as a Clinical dietitian, Diabetes educator, and Lifestyle Diabetes coach at Tri-Cities Community Health and as a Family Services Registered Dietitian at Columbia Basin Health Association in Mattawa and Othello. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University and has a Master of Nutrition and Food Science from Leon University in Spain. Passionate about helping others, she is a believer that education and prevention is the key to being healthy. With more than 10 years of teaching experience, Gaby serves as coordinator of the Diabetes Prevention Program sponsored by the CDC and the National Hispanic Alliance for Health with TCCH. She also volunteers with Prevent Homeless Pets and Pronto Puppy Rescue.