With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, a Chicago public health initiative is bringing attention to free healthy lifestyle coaching classes to steer people away from developing Type 2 diabetes.

Chicago CARES, a partnership between the Chicago Department of Public Health and the nonprofit Illinois Public Health Institute, is offering Diabetes Prevention Program classes through providers across the city, with several offering online classes.

“The coaching focuses on nutrition and physical activity – increasing physical activity and adjusting and adapting to healthier nutrition choices,” said Chicago CARES program director Lucia Flores. “It’s a free program, it’s a yearlong format provided in a support group style.”

About 1 in 10 Americans – 34.2 million people – have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 88 million American adults – roughly one in three – have prediabetes, a higher-than-normal blood sugar level that could lead to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Diabetes disproportionately impacts communities of color. According to the National Health Interview Survey by the CDC and the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.5% of Latinos and 11.7% of Blacks have diabetes compared to 7.5% of the white population.

A host of factors play into this disparity, including a lack of access to health, fresh food options in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods.

2014 study in the American Journal of Public Health issued this recommendation: “To address race disparities in diabetes, policymakers should address problems created by concentrated poverty (e.g., lack of access to reasonably priced fruits and vegetables, recreational facilities, and health care services; high crime rates; and greater exposures to environmental toxins). Housing and development policies in urban areas should avoid creating high-poverty neighborhoods.”

People can take an online test developed by the CDC to find out if they might have prediabetes based on diabetic risk indicators like age, weight, family history and other factors.

While diabetes can be properly monitored with medication, it does put someone at increased risk for cardiovascular-related episodes like heart attacks, and the American Diabetes Association has said diabetic people who contract the COVID-19 virus are more likely to have serious complications.

Read the article here: Chicago Health Program Tackles Diabetes through Free Lifestyle Coaching