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Adapting I CAN Prevent Diabetes for Latino Audiences

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

How well does a nationally-recognized diabetes prevention program work for a Latino community in southwestern Minnesota? Leticia Rodriguez and her colleagues in University of Minnesota Extension’s Health and Nutrition programs are going to find out.

Rodriguez, a SNAP-Ed educator, is a well-known face in Worthington, MN. An Extension employee for 17 years, she has been teaching about nutrition and health in the southwestern Minnesota community, population 12,943, for much of her career.

Recently, Rodriguez has been one of several SNAP-Ed educators teaching and adapting ICANPD (Individuals and Communities Acting Now to Prevent Diabetes), an evidence-based lifestyle change program designed to prevent diabetes among people at high risk for developing the disease. She has participated in Family Development efforts to adapt the course to Latino cultures and teach it in Spanish in Worthington, with the goal of better preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes among people of Latino origin. If successful, the program could have a dramatic positive impact on long-term health outcomes of participants.

Why Worthington? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one third of Worthington’s population identifies as Latino. With roots across Latin America, these individuals and families have diverse food cultures, lifestyles, and family traditions.

Why diabetes? Type 2 Diabetes is a serious disease that can be prevented if people reduce their risk factors, such as being overweight and not getting enough physical activity. Participants in ICANPD usually have prediabetes, a condition associated with higher-than-normal blood sugar readings that often leads to Type 2 diabetes.

The good news is that prediabetes is fully reversible. In fact, simple lifestyle changes, like adjusting diet and getting more physical activity, can have a big impact. Among Latinos, rates of Type 2 diabetes are significantly higher than rates in the general population, making culturally appropriate prevention programs particularly important.

As part of the cultural adaptation pilot, Rodriguez and her team of colleagues are working alongside cultural liaisons from Worthington’s Latino community. Together they hosted focus groups with potential ICANPD participants to identify ways to adapt the program to be more effective with Latino audiences.

One participant gives a thumbs up to the healthy food prepped.

Preliminary findings from the pilot have resulted in better understanding of cultural perceptions related to prevention, adaptations related to family and community, adaptations to delivery methods, and adaptations to reduce barriers to participation. Here are three examples of how Rodriguez has adapted the ICANPD program to meet her audience’s needs:
  • To build connections and support among family members for participants’ lifestyle changes, Rodriguez hosted a family event. Healthy food and physical activity were centerpieces, helping to encourage spouses and children of participants to appreciate and value healthier choices.
  • To accommodate immigrant families’ frequent life changes, seasonal schedule changes, and international travel, Rodriguez has generated ideas to help participants make up sessions efficiently and effectively.
  • To introduce participants to local facilities, Rodriguez arranged to host the ICANPD class in the local YMCA, where participants then took part in group physical activity after their scheduled class.
Nationally, the year-long ICANPD program has been clinically proven to result in reduced risk for developing diabetes. Now, University of Minnesota Extension’s SNAP-Ed educators are working to ensure the ICANPD program is culturally adapted for Minnesotans with Latino backgrounds.

Minnesota Department of Health is partnering with Extension to provide support and funding for the ICANPD cultural adaptation project.

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