A hospital and county collaboration called Nuestra Vida (Our Lives) helps Latino residents of New Mexico’s Dona Ana County live a healthier lifestyle with diabetes.

Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, N.M., and the Dona Ana County Department of Health and Human Services launched the program two years ago because Latino residents who were diabetic and lived in more rural areas of the county had difficulty getting good information about how to manage their disease.    

The program helps increase their awareness of the signs and symptoms of diabetes and pre-diabetes; implements early diagnosis through screenings and referrals; and improve diabetes management through intensive education and coordination with primary care providers. 

The county holds diabetes classes once a week at two community health centers where bi-lingual instructors – or “promotoras” – talk about diabetes, diet, medications and managing the disease. They offer tips on healthy eating, take participants grocery shopping, get them to exercise, hold cooking classes and provide a support group.

The hospital performs free screenings for participants when they begin the program.  Physicians from the hospital’s family residency program meet with each participant during the first class to discuss their condition and treatment. About 80 Latino residents so far have completed the year-long program.

After a one-year study of the program, 83% of enrollees saw a decrease in their cholesterol levels; 54% lost weight; and 65% lowered their blood pressure.

“It educates the community on health and wellness, and hopefully will keep people from going to the emergency department for issues that are completely preventable,” says John Kutinac, who heads Memorial’s family residency program and coordinates Nuestra Vida with the county.

Key to Nuestra Vida’s success is “teaching within a cultural context that understands the community … an environment where people are comfortable to ask questions in their own language,” says Eric Bransford, the county health and human services department’s manager for outreach and education.

The program will expand to two more county centers in the fall.   

 “This is population health and this is the future” of health care, says Memorial’s Kutinac. “You have to build relationships with the community and tweak the program to fit the community. This is not a cookie cutter approach.”

Nuestra Vida