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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Diabetes Network Looking for New Members

LAS CRUCES - Northern New Mexico's Rio Arriba County ranks second statewide in diabetes -related deaths. Educators and health professionals in Espanola and the surrounding area have recognized the need to teach county residents about diabetes prevention.

"Many people don't realize that diabetes is a preventable disease," said Roberta Rios, Rio Arriba County program coordinator and home economist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a sensible diet can delay or prevent Type II diabetes. The key is early detection."

Diabetes affects the body's ability to produce or respond properly to insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar to enter the body's cells to be used for energy. Left untreated, diabetes can result in heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, stroke, amputations and death.

Type II diabetes is the most common form of the disease, affecting 95 percent of all people with diabetes. Anyone can develop Type II diabetes, but Hispanics and Native Americans are at higher risk.

"Because our population is largely Hispanic and Native American, local community agencies and health organizations cooperated four years ago to form the Northern New Mexico Wellness Network," Rios said.

The network includes Extension, Los Alamos Medical Center, Health Centers of Northern New Mexico, Las Clinicas del Norte, Rio Arriba Public Health and the North Central New Mexico Chapter Council of the American Diabetes Association.

"Our first year, we conducted blood test screenings at several job sites including public schools, county offices and the Northern New Mexico Community College," Rios said. "We've continued with screenings at local businesses and conducted annual educational conferences. These conferences help individuals to recognize symptoms and provide a common level of information about management and treatment."

The network also is developing an elementary school curriculum that teaches fitness and healthy eating. Pilot schools in Pojoaque, Espanola and Ojo Caliente will use the curriculum this spring and make recommendations for the final version.

"We're looking to expand the network's membership locally to increase diabetes awareness, education and prevention," Rios said. "It isn't necessary to be a member of a community agency or health organization to join. Anyone who is interested and is committed to helping with diabetes is welcome.

For more information on joining the Northern New Mexico Wellness Network, contact Rios at (505) 753-3405. A recruitment luncheon is planned for December.