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Community event highlights ASU diabetes prevention study results

Families sit in chairs inside of a gym and watch a presentation on a projector.

Every Little Step Counts study participants and community organizations learn more about the results of the study at a community event.

November 21, 2022

At 12 years old, Jocelyne Diaz Sanchez was diagnosed with prediabetes. Being a tween, she didn’t know exactly what that meant, but that clinic visit would change the course of her life.

Diaz Sanchez’s provider referred her and her mom to a program through St. Vincent de Paul called Every Little Step Counts, which focused on equipping families with information and skills to help prevent diabetes. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people of Hispanic or Latino descent are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes than people of non-Hispanic, white descent.

“I have vivid memories of being in different classrooms where they were teaching me about nutrition and how to change my diet. It was me and my mom and a bunch of other families that were also trying to prevent Type 2 diabetes,” Diaz Sanchez said.

She also recalls it was the first time someone spoke to her about food without demonizing what she and her family were used to eating. 

"Every Little Step Counts was the first time I was told I could make modifications to include the foods I already loved, and that I didn’t have to change some of my culture, because food does tie into a culture," Diaz Sanchez said.

That was in 2010. A decade later, Diaz Sanchez is an undergraduate student at Arizona State University and a health educator at St. Vincent de Paul, teaching some of those same classes to other families as part of a new iteration of the program that now includes a research element.

“It’s definitely a full circle moment,” she said.

On Saturday, she was one of the program facilitators at an event at the Watts Family Maryvale YMCA that brought together past Every Little Step Counts study participants, researchers from ASU’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and community partners including St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Valley of the Sun YMCA to share the study's findings and celebrate the success of the project.

Portrait of , ASU undergrad and health educator at St. Vincent de Paul.

Jocelyne Diaz Sanchez

Elvia Lish, director of the Ivy Center for Family Wellness at St. Vincent de Paul, presented the results as part of a slideshow presentation. She explained that investigators found the program can help reduce the risk of diabetes in youth and that meeting with a doctor and dietitian can also reduce diabetes risk. 

They also played videos featuring past participants describing how the program impacted them and improved their health.

After the presentation, attendees were encouraged to connect with community organizations and health services. Representatives from Welsey Health Centers, Mountain Park Health Center, Chicanos Por La Causa, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego’s office and others were on hand to share information about the services they provide and the resources available.

The event was also an opportunity to discuss the next phase of the researchwhich is well underway.

“We learned a lot from focusing on kids, and we want to expand the impact. So with our new project, we’re including prioritizing entire households of high-risk families,” said Gabriel Shaibi, a professor in ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

For Diaz Sanchez, the program's growth and transformation are inspiring. 

“The work that’s being done now, I’m so proud to be a part of it and to be able to impact and give back to my community," she said. "I see the power that an interdisciplinary team brings — especially a community-based one. I’m excited to see what’s next.”

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