Meet Emmanuel. At just 12 years old, the young boy weighed 218 pounds and was already showing signs of pre-diabetes. “I was one of those children who ate everything and no one told me otherwise,” Emmanuel said. “We were a family who drank two liters of soda for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

But Emmanuel was fortunate. He along with his parents (both with Type 2 diabetes) attended a Project HOPE diabetes education program in Mexico. During the program he learned about the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes. He learned about the importance of healthy eating and exercise habits to prevent diabetes. Most importantly, he and his family committed to making changes to improve their health.

“I didn't want to become diabetic,” he said. “I am very happy for the course. Now, I walk for half-an-hour everyday and my clothes are loose.” With proper eating, and exercise added to his daily routine, Emmanuel’s weight dropped to 189 pounds and his glucose levels normalized over the 12-week course.

Two years later, Emmanuel is still living a healthy lifestyle. He now weighs 152 pounds and his glucose levels remain normal. His parent’s have reported that his self-esteem and even his studies have improved. Emmanuel is so grateful for his healthier life, that he is sharing his knowledge with others “I now teach an exercise class with my father,” he said.

Ten million people live with diabetes in Mexico. Because of late diagnosis and elevated complication rates, diabetes in Mexico is the leading cause of blindness, amputations, kidney failure and death. In response, Project HOPE began collaborating with the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in Mexico in 2001, resulting in a 12-week, 24- hour course called 5 Steps to Self-Care. Along with 5 Steps to Self-Care, Project HOPE developed a “training of trainers” course called “Lend a Hand in Self-Care”, aimed at teaching health professionals how to replicate 5 Steps with their patients. The 5 Steps program has proven to be highly effective in encouraging people to eat healthfully and exercise to prevent and control the disease, lowering blood sugar, raising quality of life and serving as role models for family and friends. Over a five year period the course has been transferred to 22 government clinics and three community groups, increasing access and sustainability. Community groups made up of “Self-Care” graduates have formed a network of “peer educators,” reaching over 30,000 area residents with easy to understand information on diabetes using games and visual aids. In October 2007, HOPE Mexico staff participated in a World Health Organization meeting to consider promoting peer education as a global strategy for improving diabetes care and prevention. To increase the link to prevention, Project HOPE launched a “Diabesity” program in local primary schools, promoting healthy eating and exercise habits among school children, their parents and their teachers in 2007.

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