URI professors and Lifespan create new healthy lifestyle program to reduce risk of chronic diseases among new immigrants

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 7, 2014 — The new Vida Sana/Healthy Life program that’s offered to uninsured, mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants at the Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic in Providence, has been shown to decrease the chronic risk factors for 60 percent of the participants. The key to the success of the program, says Annie De Groot of the University of Rhode Island, is that patients are placed in social situations that encourage healthy lifestyles.


The intervention was developed by diabetes expert Dr. Susan Oliverio from Lifespan, Rhode Island College Nursing program graduate Valerie Joseph, R.N., Brown undergraduate Jacob Buckley, URI faculty member Shahla Yekta, and De Groot, director of URI’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics.


Metabolic syndrome is a common condition that can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Thirty-five percent of adults living in the United States meet the criteria for having metabolic syndrome; the number is even higher for people who do not have quality health care.


The ‘’Vida Sana/Healthy Life” program is a healthy lifestyle program at Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, a free clinic in Providence that serves mostly Hispanic people who have low incomes and no insurance. (De Groot is the clinic’s medical director.) The study cost less than $600 per participant over eight weeks of analysis and three months of follow-up.


The study showed that the average participant lost nearly 4 pounds, while the average weight change observed in three other lifestyle intervention studies was a loss of 2 to 7 pounds. Nearly 90 percent of the participants had improvements in their knowledge of healthy habits and 60 percent experienced decreased risk factors (blood sugar, cholesterol and body mass index or waist size) linked to metabolic syndrome.


The program uses language-appropriate materials developed by Oliverio and peer educators to teach participants about healthy living in a setting that also provided opportunities to socialize. The report was recently published in the Journal of Community Health. CVS Caremark, the American Medical Association Foundation and the Rhode Island Department of Health provided funding for the study.


Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic is a free, largely volunteer health care clinic in the Olneyville neighborhood in Providence’s West End. The clinic offers treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The facility also has a women’s clinic, and diabetes support groups and healthy lifestyle/nutrition education.


The clinic only serves uninsured individuals who do not have a primary care doctor. The primary care clinic sees continuing patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5- 9 p.m. The walk-in clinic is open Monday through Friday from 2-7 p.m.


To learn more about the clinic and volunteer opportunities, visit the clinic’s website at http://www.aplacetobehealthy.org.