What's the best way to fight diabetes in a town in which nearly one-quarter of adults over 40 have this condition? According to Lourdes Fernandez of Douglas, Arizona, it might be 1 salsa at a time. "The ladies here like to dance the salsa," says Fernandez, a "community health promoter" who brings diabetes information to the people of her town. "I tell them they don't necessarily have to exercise—just start moving."
It takes a community
Is dancing the key to diabetes control? Or is it the community approach that is helping Douglas residents balance their blood sugar? Here's what experts have learned about facing diabetes as a community—and how it can help you and your neighbors.
Emma Torres—a pioneer of the promotora model—has spent the past 20 years inspiring migrant farmworkers of nearby Yuma, AZ, to take better care of their health. "Their work hours—from 3 am to very late at night—make it difficult for them to attend hospital support groups. Many are shy around doctors who don't speak Spanish. Many don't have insurance and don't know how to seek medical care," explains Torres. "Our promotoras fill in the gaps by going to their homes with the information and support they need."
Douglas resident Loreto Pedrego, 53 (diagnosed with diabetes in July 2006), agrees that it was the promotoras' special blend of persistence and knowledge that helped her adopt healthier habits in the past year. "Before, I was confused and did not understand my disease," says Pedrego. "My promotoras have given me support and friendship. I learned that I can live with diabetes if I take care of it."
So you want to be a promotora?
If you'd like to begin a promotora program in your area, look for a Prevention Research Center near you. There are 33 of these centers nationwide.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at cdc.gov/prc to learn more.