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Exercise and Education: Diabetes Prevention Action Helps Local Latino Children, Families

September 16, 2022

A study led by Professor ASU published in the Journal of American Medical Association

Derek Parra’s diet plan was fairly simple. He ate whatever his mother, Miriam, put on his plate—sometimes up to four servings.

In between meals, he drank unhealthy sugary snacks, sodas, or juices.

Para can still put the food away. After all, he is 15 years old. But teenagers in the Valley are making the smarter decisions of drinking water instead of soda, occasionally mixing in Dr. Pepper, and eating more vegetables and fruits to feed their teenage appetites. .

Miriam is also helping out, cooking with less oil and encouraging Derek and the other kids to get their sugar from fruit instead of candy.

They sometimes fell off the wagon, but they learned what to eat and, just as importantly, how to eat it.

“We are very conscious of what we eat,” Miriam said through a translator. “That information is still in our minds.”

These healthier choices and the education we need to change our habits helped Valley Latinx children six years ago by Gabriel Shaibi, professor at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. It’s what we hoped to achieve when we launched the program. 12 to 18 years old who are prone to diabetes.

The results of the study, which was backed in 2021 by a $3.3 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Among the findings:

  • After 12 months, glucose tolerance (a measure of how a child processes sugar) improved by 10%.
  • After 6 months, insulin sensitivity (a measure of how well the body uses insulin) increased by 37%.
  • Children who participated in this study reported a 10% increase in weight-related quality of life after 12 months.

“What we’ve learned is that these children do better when we provide access to preventive services,” said Shaibi, the project’s lead investigator.

Shaibi said the impetus for the study was data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed Latino children were 1.5 to 1.7 times more likely to develop diabetes than white children. .

“We designed a study called ‘We appreciate the differences in our communities,'” said Shaibi. “And these disparities are not just a matter of the haves and have-nots, these children have great difficulty accessing conventional health care services.”

Involving 117 families around the Valley, the program is a collaborative effort of ASU, Valley of the Sun YMCA, St. Vincent de Paul, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, with the latter two recruiting families and helping design the curriculum. did.

Dual focus: education and exercise.

Micah Olson, Medical Director of the Type 2 Diabetes Program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a co-author and collaborator on the study, said: “And it’s not easy, especially in the environment we live in today, where calories have become so cheap that it’s hard to move your body like you used to.”

“Thus, the hypothesis of the study is that we provide this information in a culture-focused way, whether it is provided by culturally-speaking teachers or the kind we seek for children and families. What do they do compared to what we do in the halls of medical clinics?”

Parents and their children attended the YMCA in downtown Phoenix once a week to exercise, learn to make better food choices, and modify and track their behavior. The exercise program was devised by her YMCA trainers, and bilingual health educators and nutritionists from St. Vincent and Phoenix Children’s Hospital were on hand to assist families who did not speak English.

“Everything is provided by the community, by the community, for the community,” Shaibi said. “I think it’s very unique because it’s not ‘Hey, come visit our clinic at ASU.’ ”

Families were given challenges, one of which was handed a Food City coupon and had to find healthy meal ingredients for less than $5 per person.

“It will be their homework,” Shaibi said. “Can you go out, shop, and prepare healthy meals on that budget? That’s been an eye opener for some of these families.”

The next week, the family talked about the healthy meals they made and were amazed at what they could do on a limited budget.

Everything is community, provided by community, for community.

— Gabriel Shaibi, Professor, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Elvia Risch, Director of the Ivy Center for Family Wellness in St. Vincent de Paul, said: “We told them, ‘It has to be delicious, but it has to be cost-effective,’ and whoever cost the least to eat won a prize or a game. I just came up with a really great example that emphasizes that you don’t have to eat expensive food to be.”

Families were also given healthy recipes they could cook.

“It gave me a sense of nutrition, like what not to overeat and how to have a balanced diet,” said Miriam Parra.

YMCA chief operating officer Libby Corral said sharing family experiences has brought families together in ways that individual diet, exercise and nutrition programs cannot.

“They really developed a sense of community,” Coral said. “We had families and groups of children with the same problems who could learn and support each other. They developed friendships and relationships that lasted longer than the program itself.”

Shaibi hopes the research will benefit families for generations to come. Children who exercise and eat healthy today will be the parents tomorrow who teach their children to do the same. offered his six-month free membership to all 117 families in the country.

“We know that this kind of disease runs in families,” Shaibi said. We also know that prevention and behavior are tracked in families: If your parents were active, you are more likely to be too.

The investigation has been completed, but the work has not been completed. Shaibi and his team have received additional funding rounds to continue the study and cover all households over the next five years.

“We are trying to make a bigger impact,” he said. “Mom, dad, cousins, grandparents, anyone who lives in the house.”

Above: Participants participating in the program after a fitness class at the YMCA.