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Turning the tide against diabetes

Through exercise and nutrition education, Extension helps reduce risks.

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Extension received recognition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after participants lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight in the first four months of starting the I Can Prevent Diabetes program.

In classes where University of Minnesota Extension nutrition educators teach the I Can Prevent Diabetes (I CAN PD) curriculum, students put a human face on statistics about diabetes.

The numbers can be scary. More than one-third of all adults in the United States are pre-diabetic; ethnicity and race put some at higher risk. Living with diabetes increases the risk of developing heart disease, kidney failure and stroke, among other conditions; 20 percent of U.S. health care spending addresses care for people who have diabetes.

On the other hand, through lifestyle changes, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes drops by as much as 58 percent. I CAN PD, a program developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers pre-diabetic people practical ways to incorporate good nutrition and exercise habits into their lives. Extension offers this program in Minnesota.

In 2016, eight of the 32 I CAN PD classes in Minnesota were customized for Latino participants. In Willmar, Extension staff offered the nation’s first class in the Somali language and adapted it specifically for Somali participants. They used a team approach with Extension’s Somali Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) educators, adapting a curriculum written for a Western audience and incorporating belief systems.

“We’re showing it works. The support for one another is so helpful,” said Conchita Paez-Sievert, SNAP-Ed educator based in Nobles County, where the success of Latino participants mirrors national I CAN PD statistics of 5.2 percent average weight loss in one year. “I’m living proof. Before I taught ‘I Can Prevent Diabetes,’ I was in a class.”

As the program moves forward, adaptation is essential, Paez-Sievert said, noting how Extension helps participants learn more about the nutritional value, including calorie counts, of meals typically prepared in Latino-American and Somali-American homes, rather than depending on materials that focus largely on traditional American fare.

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