South Bronx nonprofit plans to build diabetes training institute after receiving $2 million grant

From left is Peer Leader Faith Worrell-Caceres, Executive Director Chris Norwood and Peer Leader Mary Brown.
Photo courtesy Health People

Health People, a community-based health education nonprofit in the South Bronx, received a $2 million grant from Yield Giving and, according to executive director and founder Chris Norwood, plans to use the funds to open a training institute to educate diabetics on how to care for themselves.

Health People was founded in 1990, initially aiming to provide support for women with AIDS. Since that time, the nonprofit has expanded its men’s programs and developed educational programs centering around asthma and diabetes.

“We try to focus on communities,” Norwood said. “We try to build up the sense that, when things look really hopeless, that you can do something about it.”

These programs are “peer-to-peer,” meaning Health People identifies community members who have the disease or have family with the disease. These individuals then undergo training and are sent back into the community to teach from experience. Over the course of its existence, Health People has trained over 500 peers to teach and watched thousands of Bronx residents go through the programs.

“We see consistent, enormous behavior change after our programs,” Norwood said. “Communities can take the lead in healing themselves if they are given the back-up and support.”

Norwood says the $2 million grant will be used to build a training institute, which she says could expand beyond the South Bronx. The program would train Bronx residents to teach diabetics self-management and how to prevent the likelihood of amputation or a loss of eyesight.

This type of peer-to-peer education can act as a “constant” when Bronx hospitals may not have the personnel to offer consistent educational resources, Norwood says.

Along with the training institute, Health People hopes to launch a public health campaign that would inform New Yorkers about the potential of a loss of eyesight for diabetics and what steps they can take to prevent it.

“It’s terrible impact can be significantly reduced,” Norwood said about diabetes. “It’s like ill health is just allowed.”

She hopes Health People’s efforts will reduce the damaging side effects of diabetes in the years to come by offering education for Bronxites, by Bronxites.

There is no timeline yet for the training institute or public health campaign.

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