|Volunteer creates ministry for diabetics|
Registered nurse Patty Larraga, founder of the
Institute of Minority Health Education and Research, discusses diabetes
management at an assisted-living center in Wichita, Kan. UMNS photos by
By John Gordon*
Sept. 26, 2007 | WICHITA, Kan. (UMNS)
Making her rounds as a home-health care nurse, Patty Larraga noticed
something unusual: a dangerous disease that seemed to hit the Hispanic
community especially hard.
"Diabetes is a very insidious or sneaky disease," says Larraga.
"People walk around for many years, often times, and don't even know
Larraga began volunteering her time to find those with diabetes — and
teach them how to lead healthier lives and avoid life-threatening
complications. She founded the Institute of Minority Health
Education and Research as an outreach to Hispanics living in the Wichita
area. A $50,000 grant from United Methodist Health Ministry Fund
is helping the organization expand its programs.
"We know now that no one has to die blind, no one has to lose their feet
nor do they have to end up on dialysis," says Larraga, whose husband
was diagnosed with the disease two years ago. "These are the three
complications that we know we can prevent."
Dave Sanford is the executive director of GraceMed
Health Clinic, an area health clinic supported by the United Methodist
Church's Kansas West Annual (regional) Conference.
Institute volunteers conduct screening clinics to help diagnose
diabetes. The organization also holds bilingual classes to show
diabetics how to manage the disease by watching their diet, exercising
and regularly checking their blood sugar.
Larraga's organization has developed a relationship with GraceMed, a
Wichita health clinic supported by the United Methodist Kansas West
Annual (regional) Conference. GraceMed is the biggest source of
referrals for the classes.
Dave Sanford, the clinic's executive director, says 12,000 patients
are treated there every year. Most of them are uninsured or
"The No. 1 chronic disease state that we address is diabetes," says
Sanford. "We see a lot of health-care disparities when it comes to the
minority population. And so when it comes to Hispanics or
African-Americans, there's a higher rate of diabetes."
Jose Gasca knows well the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Gasca, 63, is a GraceMed patient who was referred to Larraga's classes
to learn more about managing his diabetes.
"I myself have lost brothers, relatives that have left this earth way
too early because they weren't getting a full guidance as how to manage
their diabetes," he says.
Adjustments in his diet are also part of Gasca's plan. "With Latinos,
we just love our food and we tend to overeat," he explains. "So it's
important to exercise. It's something we live with, that we can
manage every day."
Diana Juarez, an institute volunteer who is the group's director of
education, meets those who have completed the educational courses for
walks in the park to put into practice what they learned in the
Diana Juarez, a volunteer and director of education for the institute, walks with Jose Gasca, a 63 year-old diabetic patient.
"It concerns me that people (who) do not know they have diabetes will
probably wait until there's a major complication to come down and learn
that they have to treat it every day," she says. "So, it becomes a
public health issue. Someone is paying the bill."
The United Methodist grant will allow the institute to become
certified by the American Diabetes Association. According to
Larraga, the organization will then be able to receive payments from
Medicare and Medicaid for its educational programs, helping the
mostly-volunteer group pay overhead expenses and other costs.
One of Larraga's goals is to train other health-care workers —
promotores — to help spread the facts about diabetes and how to manage
"One community health worker can reach approximately a thousand
people a year," she says, "and touch that many lives and make a
difference. It's almost like we're cloning ourselves so they can help
*Gordon is a freelance writer and producer in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Fran Goode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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