Los Angeles, CA
The Diabetes Healthy Eating Lifestyle Program (HELP), which began in 2010, is part of Adventist Health White Memorial Diabetes Program’s community outreach activities that teach adults and children at risk for diabetes the benefits of a well-balanced diet and the importance of exercise. The free program was designed to reduce pediatric obesity by educating children ages 5 to 12 and their families about healthy eating habits and physical activity. HELP includes clinical and behavioral assessments, interactive educational workshops, workshop follow-up and opportunities for physical activity and exercise to promote healthy lifestyles. In partnership with California State University, Los Angeles, HELP utilizes health educators and registered dietitian nutritionists to implement the program and ensure its cultural relevance and appropriateness for the community. Emphasis is on long-term lifestyle changes, rather than short-term diets.
As a result of these lifestyle changes, program participants learn to make healthier food choices, integrate exercise into their everyday activities, watch less TV, reduce sedentary activities, and reduce their weight and percentage of body fat. Children and their parents engage in hands-on-cooking demonstrations, and have fun learning during the six-week course. The HELP curriculum includes trips to the local supermarket, where parents and children learn how to read labels and buy healthier foods. Clinical data are collected and reported to monitor participants’ progress.
The HELP evidence-based intervention consists of an orientation, five classes (modules) and one follow-up class (module). The two-hour classes use a specific curriculum that has been tailored to this community All workshops are offered in English and Spanish. Weight and height are recorded at the first, fifth and sixth classes. There is a three-month break between the fifth and sixth classes, during which a newsletter is sent to participants once a month. Children attend the program with one parent/guardian. HELP bilingual workshops are conducted throughout the year. Maximum enrollment per workshop is 10 families (one child/one parent) as siblings and second parents also are encouraged to attend.
The HELP program began in 2010 and has helped more than 400 families (more than 750 children and adults). Success is measured in the children as maintaining or lowering of body mass index (BMI). In adults, it is measured as reducing BMI. Statistics reflect that the children achieved 82 percent success and the adults 88 percent. While this is a program for overweight children, we have also seen great success with adults.
Good nutrition is not inherent in this community, and there are many misconceptions as to what constitutes good nutrition. Within the Hispanic culture, being overweight is not seen as necessarily bad. However, we have found that the participants are interested in learning how to eat better and are motivated to make better choices. The success rate we have achieved is higher than we expected. This community is eager to learn, and the participants have helped us continue the program through word of mouth.
We are expanding our outreach to two public elementary schools and to a federally qualified health center’s pediatric practice. In Los Angeles County, the prevalence of obesity in children is greater than 28 percent. In this community, which is primarily Hispanic/Latino, the prevalence of obesity in children is higher. If we can reduce or prevent obesity in children by teaching lifestyle changes, we can greatly reduce their risk of diabetes and other comorbidities.
Contact: Mary Anne Chern
Senior Vice President