VillageCareMAX and numerous other health care organizations came together Saturday at St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven to teach Bronxites about managing diabetes. Organized by Velazquez Consulting, the Diabetes Health Festival offered attendees free health screenings, cooking demonstrations and nutrition and exercise exhibitions.
Laura O’Connell, the senior community engagement manager at VillageCareMAX, said the organization has developed diabetes-focused programs to address the prevalence of the disease in the South Bronx. According to the New York State Department of Health, the Bronx had the highest rate of diabetes in 2018 out of the state’s 62 counties with 16%.
“Participating in this festival gives us an opportunity to educate and provide resources in the community … and help disparities and equities,” O’Connell said.
VillageCareMAX registered nurse Camille Edwards was also present at the festival. Edwards works as a clinical quality manager, a department that focuses on member education. She said her main focus is “ensuring that the public is well educated on the types of diabetes and how we help members manage it.”
The VillageCareMAX booth featured a spin-the-wheel activity to promote diabetes education where health care professionals could ask trivia questions that relate to important diabetes information. For example, O’Connell said one of the questions asked was how many teaspoons of sugar are in a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola — 10 teaspoons.
“We want people to understand that sugar is everywhere,” O’Connell said. “We just have to make sure that we are aware of sugar, what sugar is, where sugar is and how to avoid overeat(ing) sugar.”
The festival also featured a Kids Zone, which had activities for children provided by YMCA La Central, Bronxworks Betances Cornerstone and HealthCorps. Attendees could also learn about nutrition tips for people with diabetes through food tastings with Chef Tania Lopez, the owner of a Coqui the Chef, a Bronx-based business that focuses on cultural and nutrition education. There was also a dance class and fitness education opportunities.
The Diabetes Health Festival made sure to keep attendees entertained beyond diabetes education. Salsa band Conjunto Imagen and singer Syrena Vega provided live performances.
O’Connell said it is crucial that the community remains informed about diabetes to diagnose and treat the disease earlier. The festival enabled health care professionals to reach community members in order to transform the prevalence of diabetes in the Bronx.
“We’re here to help,” O’Connell said. “We’re here to answer questions and we’re here to help them navigate.”
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