BRONZEVILLE — Chicago CARES is taking its Diabetes Prevention Program virtual.
The year-long program offers resources and support for those struggling with Type 2 Diabetes or with a pre-diabetic diagnosis.
With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, the nonprofit network aims to make the free program as accessible as possible by partnering with community health clinics like Howard Brown Health and Heartland Health Center, according to CARES Program Director Lucy Flores.
“It’s a great resource for our communities where there may be limited access to resources like this,” Flores said. “Diabetes is a chronic health condition, and in lower-income Black and Latino communities, there’s often a dearth of resources, including parks and green spaces where we can be more physically active.”
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 1.3 million Illinoisans are affected by the disease, but roughly 341,000 are unaware of their status. Nationally, diabetes diagnoses have risen to the point where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the U.S. an “F” for failing to improve minority health outcomes.
With that in mind, each Chicago CARES program participant receives a trained lifestyle support coach, skills to increase activity and manage stress, and support from other participants.
Classes meet weekly for the first six months, and monthly for the second phase.
For Anna Sparkman, the experience has been life-changing. The Afrolatina grandmother of three started the program through Komed Holman Health Center after being diagnosed with pre-diabetes last year, completing it several weeks ago.
“From my personal lifestyle and family history, we eat certain foods generation after generation, so we have to unlearn those eating habits to continue to live, because a lot of my family have died,” said Sparkman, who lives with her son and his family in Kenwood.
Sparkman credits the program with teaching her how to control her cholesterol by avoiding certain foods, and helping her stay on track. She’s lost 16 pounds so far, and has been able to maintain with the tools the program provides.
“The group coach and other physicians are fabulous. They give us documentation, a calorie-counting book — I use Google to count calories — but all of those things keep me on target,” said Sparkman, adding that having a health-conscious family has also been helpful.
“We’re trying not to die. We want to live the best life that we can while we’re living,” Sparkman said.
For more information about the Chicago CARES Diabetes Prevention Program, or to find a class, visit the site here.
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