Apple & SAATHI Diabetes Program Graduation

Lafi, one of our APPLE Program graduates, stood before the group at our graduation party sharing that she had spent years trying to lose the weight she gained after moving to the U.S., but was never quite successful. “I suffered from knee pain for four years. I had a lot of problems – the doctor said I needed surgery. Hearing that, I joined APPLE and lost 15 pounds. My knee pain has improved, and my life has become a lot easier,” she said. Lafi and over 40 other women were part of Sapna NYC’s three cohorts of diabetes prevention and management programming. Our August 1stgraduation was a celebration of the dedication these women showed over the 8-month programs and their commitment to lifestyle change for better health for themselves and their families. We were joined by our funders, Islamic Relief USA and Montefiore, sharing stories of success, feedback on the program, and planning for the future over chai and healthy snacks. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. and about 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year (CDC National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017). In the South Asian population, roughly 9-11% of people have diabetes. Though highly effective weight loss programs based on theories of behavior change have been developed in recent years, including the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), these programs are not culturally appropriate for the South Asian community. Results from the National Diabetes Prevention project indicate very low rates of retention in low income communities of color in their project. Recognizing the lack of appropriate services and the staggering statistics, Sapna NYC spent the last year dedicated to creating a culturally competent and linguistically accessible healthy living Diabetes Prevention Program for the women in our community. Partnering with Montefiore, we developed a fully Bengali CDC-accredited Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) that blends diabetes prevention with leadership development, outreach skills, and social network building. We began this project by educating our Bronx community on the importance of knowing your status and getting regular A1c tests, particularly for those with more than one risk factor. As we began collecting A1c scores to recruit for our SAATHI Diabetes Prevention Program, we found that many of the women were ineligible for the program because they already had diabetes. They asked, “What about us?” so we decided to create a second program, our APPLE Diabetes Management Program. Both our APPLE and SAATHI diabetes programs include 26 group classes paired with individual goal-setting sessions that create specific goals tailored to the needs and circumstances of each woman. Women are taught about nutrition, portion control, physical activity, self-care, among many other topics. We are excited to have worked with three groups of women in 2018, 2 SAATHI and 1 APPLE, and to have seen wonderful results including, lowered A1C scores, weight loss, increased physical activity, and increased knowledge of nutrition.