If managing your diabetes seems like a heavy responsibility to carry alone consider this: About one in 10 adults in Houston and Harris County have diabetes, according to the 2010 Health of Houston Survey.
To help residents manage their diabetes, the city’s Diabetes Awareness and Wellness Network offers free wellness programming to individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.
“Our main focus is on helping people build the right skillset to be able to manage their diabetes,” said Betsy Campos, a public health educator for the DAWN center.
The Houston Health Department established the DAWN center in the Third Ward Multi-Service Center. It is open to residents 18 years or older who are prediabetic or who have diabetes. Once a member, residents can enroll in services and classes depending on their individual needs. A staff of nurses, public health educators, a fitness instructor, nutritionist, medical assistant and counselor work with members to address lifestyle factors that contribute to the onset of diabetes.
“They come in and I sit down with them and let them know what the resources are,” said Campos of walk-ins to the center. “If they decide to become members we do a consultation with the nurse.”
That Day 1 consultation includes an A1C test for blood glucose, a cholesterol test, and taking blood pressure. After the biometrics tests, members talk with the nurse about their overall health goals.
“Let’s say they want to see the nutritionist and improve on their healthy eating. I will schedule an appointment so they can see the nutritionist,” Campos said. “We give them a list of things that might benefit them and we guide them through what classes they should be starting.”
Each month the DAWN center offers a variety of classes, including diabetes self-management, Zumba, a walking club, an African Heritage cooking class, a Cooking Healthy class, and a newly launched Diabetes Prevention Program class, which was structured by the Centers for Disease Control and tailored to people who are prediabetic.
Campos said the first Diabetes Prevention Program course started in November 2017. The DPP encourages members to make long-term changes that benefit their overall health.
“It’s a yearlong program and has a lifestyle coach that guides you throughout the year,” Campos said. “It helps you focus on losing weight, healthy eating habits, and being physically active.”
To accommodate members’ varying health goals and availability, different classes are offered throughout the week. Along with nutritional and physical fitness support, members receive biometric follow ups depending on their health goals or class enrollment.
“We encourage people and try to give them motivation to take control of their health,” Campos said.
Martha Vallin, a DAWN center lifestyle coach and public health educator, teaches PreventT2, a 26-week diabetes prevention program designed to reverse the onset of prediabetes.
“Our goals are to help our members lower a minimum of 5 percent of their weight, lower their A1C, and lower their blood pressure,” Vallin said.
“I’ve seen a lot of remarkable changes in people,” Vallin said. “One of my members did her follow-up measurements and she lost 3 inches in her waist and 7 pounds.”
“I really enjoy what I do,” said Vallin whose worked at the DAWN center for the past two years.
And Campos agrees.
“We’ve had members tell us without us they don’t know where they’d be and how to manage,” Campos said. “That feels amazing to hear. It makes your heart grow and gives you that motivation to keep doing the job you’re doing.
“If you have a great resource, why not use it,” said Campos of the DAWN center’s free programming and services. “You never know how this could help you.
Learn more about the DAWN center and its free programming:
You can also contact them at 832-393-4055.