By Fia Curley
Every nine months it seems to be the same thing.
People come in to the National Alliance to Nurture the Aged and Youth (NANAY) Inc., to attend a workshop or class and inadvertently end up on "the couch," the one elders rest on when they have unexpected dizzy spells brought on by diabetes as someone calls for help.
Like many people, Asian Americans are seeing diabetes affect friends and loved ones. However, unlike various minority groups, Asian Americans have lower rates of obesity, causing organizations to take different approaches to the problem.
But that hasn't slowed the occurrence of high blood pressure among young people and diabetic attacks with the elders, according to Dr. Rose Del Rosario, program director and clinical sociologist at NANAY, Inc., a community center in Miami that caters to the young and old.
"It's all related to bad nutrition intake," said Del Rosario, who conducts twice weekly workshops on health related topics and translates medical information into the Philippine language.
And although workshops can deal with a variety of topics, Del Rosario said she always finds ways to slip diabetes tidbits into the conversation.
"Somewhere in my discussion, I always come back to the fact everything is interconnected," she said. "So, it's not ‘oh she's always talking about diabetes'—because they get harassed enough from their doctors and family members. I like to come at it from the back door. It doesn't seem like I'm harassing them."
Workshop topics include being proactive about asking your doctor questions, knowing symptoms that can signal something is wrong with you or a friend, and substituting more water for soda.
"The conversation needs to focus on nutrition and our fascination with American junk food," Del Rosario said. "Water you can get from the tap, but a soda is 50 cents to a dollar. I tell them to ‘save your money for bingo,' because we have bingo nights here."
These are also messages Del Rosario hopes to bring to young people, because as she puts it, "when someone is going through dialysis it interrupts quality of life for everyone in the family."
NANAY, which is mother in the Filipino language, serves 300 elders and about 25 young people, is looking to implement programs for young people that get "down and dirty" without sacrificing content.
Asian Pacific Health Care Venture, (APHCV) Inc. is using a similar tactic with the more than 10,000 individuals who visit their community health center in Los Angeles, about 90 percent of them are Asian American, 8 percent are Hispanic and 1 percent are Pacific Islanders.
"Nationwide it's been a really hot topic," said Mika Aoki, director of services for APCHV. "I can't call it an epidemic in our center, but the providers have seen higher numbers."
For the youth, peer educators are used to spread information, but when it comes to chronic diseases, which affect the majority of older populations, APCHV utilizes incentives and case managers for their Thai and Filipino populations.
First time visitors to the Center's diabetes class receive a free glucometer and strips to test their blood sugar levels, find out how to use the glucometer and create self-management goals. Participants also talk about increased physical activities. The class is also offered in Thai.
"Los Angeles is a very car type of environment, so people don't walk as much," Aoki said "(With) most of the population we serve, you can't assume that they can go and purchase a membership at the gym."
So instead of touting exercise, APCHV offers yoga, tai chi and ballroom dancing to increase physical activity.
"In the past with the pediatric patients, we try to incorporate games you did as a child that relate to physical activity," Aoki said. "We wanted to do obesity prevention or increasing physical activity and do something their parents could get involved in—something they did as a child and keeping up with the heritage."
Jumping rope, hide and seek, games of tag and trips to the park are orchestrated by the community health center to bolster physical activity among clients.
"You don't have to take your kids to the YMCA if you can't." Aoki said. "You don't have to take them to the gym if you can not. We're telling them it's as simple as this."
Fia Curley is a writer for the OMHRC. Comments? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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