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APHA working with black sororities to prevent diabetes.

TO IMPROVE the health status of black women and prevent them from developing diabetes, APHA recently launched SororsCaring, an initiative designed to pave the way for diabetes prevention and education through sorority sisterhood.

Using a train-the-trainer approach, the program will identify and train representatives, or "champions," from four national historically black sororities that are leaders in community service: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta. The champions will undergo comprehensive diabetes education and prevention training, which they will take back to their families and communities.

"This is a novel approach that will build a network of black professionals to champion the cause of diabetes prevention," said Monica Lathan, MPH, CHES, former APHA health policy analyst in the area of eliminating health disparities. "By using sororities, the program will have direct access to large numbers of black women across the nation."

The four sororities are made up of college-educated black professional women whose service to their communities continue long after college graduation. Membership is by invitation and is extended to candidates who demonstrate high academic and professional achievements.

With a one-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Women's Health, SororsCaring can potentially reach more than 600,000 women who are part of black sororities, Lathan said. The new program is unique in that it utilizes black sororities as the vehicle to disseminate health information and to serve as health advocates in their communities, Lathan said.

Lillian Stokes, PhD, RN, national president of Chi Eta Phi, a professional nursing sorority headquartered in Washington, D.C., said many of the nursing sororities have programs relating to health issues.

"Chi Eta Phi Sorority has, as one of its major programs, health promotion and disease prevention," said Stokes, director of diversity and enrichment at Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis and associate professor in the Department of Adult Heath.

Stokes said participation in SororsCaring will facilitate direct connections of a variety of "sorors" in communities to educate individuals about diabetes.

The champions will also educate people with the disease, Stokes said, with the goal of helping them to gain a better understanding of how they can take control of the problem by learning selfmanagement strategies, "so that the myriad of complications that often occur can be prevented," she said.

Each of the sororities involved will appoint champions throughout the country to work in their communities to bring the initiative home, Stokes said.

Diabetes is one of the nation's most serious health concerns, affecting more than 20 million people, or 7 percent of the U.S. population. One in three Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point during their lives, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diabetes can strike people of all races and ages, but women, older adults and minority populations are disproportionately affected by diabetes and its complications. Blacks, Hispanics, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes. People with diabetes have a shortage of insulin, or a decreased ability to use insulin, a hormone that allows sugar to enter cells and be converted to energy.

Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is often linked to obesity, said Michelle Owens, PhD, MA, a behavioral scientist with CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation in Atlanta.

"More adult women are obese than adult men, with the problem being greatest among non-Hispanic black women," Owens said.

To educate women about the causes and complications of type 2 diabetes, Owens recommended the use of diabetes education resources provided by the National Diabetes Education Program, which translate the latest science and spread the word that type 2 diabetes "is serious, common and costly, but it is also controllable and preventable."

"It is very important to get the word out about ways to prevent diabetes, as well as to control it," Owens told The Nation's Health. "Our recent research findings suggest that type 2 diabetes can be prevented, or at least delayed, by losing a little bit of weight and lifestyle changes."

Losing 5 percent to 7 percent of a person's body weight can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, said Eleanor Hinton Hoytt, interim president and chief executive officer of the Black Women's Health Imperative. The non-profit organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., strives to build a strong "sister force" through which black women serve as powerful self-advocates for their personal health.

"We believe that black women are not destined to have diabetes," Hinton Hoytt told The Nation's Health.

For more on SororsCaring, call (202) 7772490 or e-mail <barbara.>.
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Title Annotation:American Public Health Association
Author:Johnson, Teddi Dineley
Publication:The Nation's Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Previous Article:Built environment, health focus of APHA event on Capitol Hill.
Next Article:APHA debuts new Web site, resources, logo for national Get Ready campaign.

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