Program Offers Free Diabetes Classes
By Dianne Anderson
With the fridge within arm’s reach for many who have been stuck at home stress eating during the pandemic, piling on the pounds got a lot easier this year.
Now, the holidays offer another excuse to munch on sugar and carbs, but the stakes are higher lately than usual.
Over one-third of Americans are pre-diabetic, which increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and COVID-19 complications. Of those, the Office of Minority Health reports African American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician.
Health educator Bianca Reid said this is an important time to consider making the best food choices. Her diabetes awareness program offers a great way for folks to get the support they need, and share diet tips and tricks.
“If you don’t take care of your health now, you’re going to be stuck in bed taking medication. Check it now at the door,” she said.
Sign-ups are easy, and open virtually to all in the Inland Empire. Since starting two years ago, the coaching program and workshops are offered for free, but free is not cheap.
“Some people don’t believe that it’s free, they’re like what’s the catch? There is no catch,” shes aid.
After they implemented the program in the first year, she said that Black participation was strong, and all were committed to lifestyle changes. The program was also recognized by the CDC in the Inland Empire.
Usually, weight loss and health coaches can easily run into the hundreds of dollars, but at Riverside Community Health Foundation, she said the clients get virtual hand-holding. They share success and motivation through a variety of resources.
Diabetes is nothing to play with, and even pre-diabetes can spell trouble in light of all of the other stresses that the community is facing, such as racism in health, and years of trauma, she said. There are too many issues to ignore.
Most people also don’t think of diabetes as losing a leg, or an extremity, or suffering complications from COVID-19.
“A lot of people are like, oh it’s diabetes, you just have to get a shot,” she said. “No, many in the Black community are on dialysis, or kidney failure, vascular issues, stroke, thyroid issues, cancer. We’re at more risk of everything under the sun.”
Through her program, three Black women who were once at risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes are now managing their condition, and have collectively lost 30 pounds.
“They say they don’t want to get sick because my mom had it, or grandma had it, or they died from it,” she said. “You can make yourself healthier. For a lot of people, it doesn’t hit them until they lose somebody.”
COVID 19 is another good reason to make changes in diet and exercise. Studies show that African Americans and Latinos with pre-existing conditions are taking the brunt of hospitalizations.
Recently, the Lancet medical journal reported that of a U.S. sampling, 33% of those admitted to hospital with COVID-19 were Black, although they only represented 18% of the sample population. They also found that the infection and death rates were three to six times higher within 131 predominately black counties in the united states than in predominantly white counties.
“Among those with severe COVID-19 and those who died, there is a high prevalence of concomitant conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” the report states.
Community dietician Sandra Acevedo said people are not getting outside much or going to the gym. They also don’t a lot of social support, which is where she sees communities of color struggling.
As a result, she said the program has changed how they provide services, and diabetes prevention to online. Participants had learned from their doctors that they were at the pre-diabetic stage, and through the program, they were motivated to reach their goals.
“So far in the cohorts, they have lost a total of 200 pounds. A lot of people have been able to reduce their risk of diabetes. They exercise and share their struggles, and get two lifestyle coaches that go over the classes,” said Acevedo, MPH, RD Community Dietitian at Riverside Community Health Foundation.
It’s a group effort.
“Everybody is trying to do the same thing. We talk about healthy eating, we talk about stress, we talk about what diabetes and prediabetes and where that risk is and what happens if you don’t make a change,” she said.”
To sign up for the Diabetes workshops, see https://rcdc.rchf.org/