Encouraging an Active Approach to Health Care

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Juanita Espinosa (second from right) with fellow participants at the Family Education Diabetes Series (FEDS).

By Kristin Vanevenhoven, Communications Specialist

A year ago, Juanita Espinosa and her daughter started attending the Family Education Diabetes Series (FEDS) program. About half way through the program, Juanita received some distressing news from her doctor; she would be forced to start taking medication for her diabetes. When Juanita heard the news, she was not willing to sit passively and wait for the doctor to tell her which medications she needed to be taking.

Juanita Espinosa (right) and her daughter attending a recent FEDS session.

Juanita Espinosa (right) and her daughter attending a recent FEDS session.

Instead, FEDS helped her learn how to take an active role in her health care. “I can walk, I can exercise, I can change my diet, and I can take an active role in making sure that I am here for a long time,” Juanita said proudly. Thankfully, she never had to take that medication her doctor originally prescribed.

Every aspect of FEDS is important. When participants arrive, they are greeted, they sign in, and they receive their health-check folders. They get their blood pressure and glucose levels taken, and have their feet and weight checked. “It is fun for myself and my daughter to watch how our numbers change,” said Juanita. “It also makes me think about what I have eaten that day. I used to always eat a piece of chocolate between work and coming to FEDS, but I realized how that was messing with my numbers. So, I changed my behavior around that, and just come here, and I am okay.”

Following the health checks, everyone gathers together for a healthy meal of chef-prepared indigenous foods. There are usually a number of educational topics woven into each session. During the meal, there might be a short discussion on staying energized without caffeine. Afterwards, there is usually a speaker with a larger, related topic. One talk was focused on historical trauma, which was a heavy topic. “But everyone there felt safe. FEDS is a safe place to feel connected, supported, and have these conversations,” Juanita said reassuringly. “One time a doctor came, and we had a very good discussion. Everyone felt comfortable, talked openly about the medications they were taking, and asked questions.”

Exercise is another important piece of health education. Some participants might not have full range of motion anymore, but FEDS encourages all kinds of movement and stretches. “Dancing has been the most fun for me. I think for most people, dancing is an easier way to think about exercising, it comes more naturally, so it makes it more of an embracing exercise,” Juanita added with a smile.

Last year, FEDS served nearly 50 individuals. Although Juanita feels it serves many more who don’t come. “I know this information does not just come to me and sit there, in my world it is getting shared.”

Juanita shared that now, at most of their family gatherings, they do not offer pop or juice. They have water, flavored water, or tea. “It seems to be acceptable, and no one is complaining,” said Juanita.

“FEDS really reinforces the cultural perspective on family, the cultural perspective on sharing, and the cultural perspective on adapting our diets. And really, it is about going back to our original diet,” said Juanita, “It has been very encouraging to have a place like this that allows and encourages that.”

To learn more about the Family Education Diabetes Series (FEDS), please contact:

Eamon Goodall
Diabetes Education Coordinator