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STC Keeps on The Fight Against Diabetes In The RGV

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More than 500 people visited South Texas College during the three-day event, including over 200 students from Mission Consolidated Independent School District and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District. STC Image
More than 500 people visited South Texas College during the three-day event, including over 200 students from Mission Consolidated Independent School District and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District. STC Image

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By Selene Rodriguez

South Texas College, in partnership with South Texas Health System, Prominence Health Plan and Unidos Contra la Diabetes, recently hosted the 2nd Annual Prevent, Treat and Beat Diabetes Symposium. 

As part of the symposium, STC’s Nursing and Allied Health campus held educational seminars that included cooking and exercise demonstrations targeted to all members of the community. 

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“South Texas College has always been a catalyst for the betterment of our community. We’re very excited to be part of this movement because to beat diabetes, we must do it together,” said Jayson Valerio, D.N.P., dean of STC’s Nursing and Allied Health. “We’re here today because we care. As educators, it’s our duty to help teach our community how to live a healthy and happy life. Our goal is that these events can help raise awareness to prevent, treat and beat diabetes as a community.”

Nearly 30 years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared diabetes as an epidemic and a major public health problem. Despite international efforts to decrease the number of cases, 543 million people in the world are living with diabetes.

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According to South Texas Health System, one in three people in the RGV has diabetes and about half of them aren’t aware that they have it. 

Recent data from Unidos Contra La Diabetes show that 27% of the population of the region has been diagnosed with the disease, nearly three times higher than the national average.

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To raise awareness about the alarming increase of cases in the Rio Grande Valley and to educate on how to prevent or treat diabetes through healthy diet and exercise, the symposium kicked off with a panel of experts from various sectors of the RGV on Diabetes Alert Day to discuss the present state of the community’s health and what can be done to decrease the incidence of diabetes in the region during the panel discussion “Addressing Diabetes as a Community.”

More than 500 people visited STC during the three-day event, including over 200 students from Mission Consolidated Independent School District and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District.

STC students and instructors collaborated with health care professionals from South Texas Health System to offer bilingual educational activities focused on eating well and being physically active. Children also participated in a rock painting workshop, intended to show them how to use creativity and self-expression to support their mental health.

“We’re very grateful for this opportunity to help children learn about diabetes. Our students had so much fun playing with the kids and teaching them what they know,” said Vocational Nursing Instructor Michelle Pruneda. “Participating in health fairs like these gives our students the chance to connect with the community. Here at STC, we’re always willing to help. We’re nurses, that’s what we’re all about.”

Students from STC’s Vocational Nursing, Associate Degree in Nursing, Physical Therapist Assistant and Culinary Arts programs also led various activities pertaining to healthy living and exercise.

“STC students provided free health screenings to all the attendants, it was an amazing learning experience for them. They also had the chance to attend the conferences and learn from the speakers,” said Nursing Instructor Marisol Escamilla.

Physical Therapist Assistant student Doris Gutierrez also commented on the importance of educating the community on the different activities they can do to improve their health. 

“We participated in Tai-Chi, Yoga and Zumba classes, it was a great opportunity for the public to know what’s available for them out there,” Gutierrez said.

STC’s Physical Therapist Assistant students also led interactive activities, such as Time, Up and Go, a functional test that therapists use to assess patient’s mobility.

“As future therapists, it was eye-opening to participate in all of the exercise classes. Now we understand what the patient feels, taking into consideration it might be more difficult for them. This experience definitely gives us a new perspective,” said student Aliyah Garcia. 

Commemorating the event’s success, South Texas Health System Dr. Luis Reyes celebrated their continued partnership with STC and recognized the need for education to eradicate diabetes all together as a community.

“COVID was a wake-up call, especially for diabetic patients. We are aware, now more than ever, that we are more at risk for health conditions when we don’t take care of our bodies,” he said. “Diabetes can and will be decreased by educating our community. The same way we reduced cancer percentages by teaching people not to smoke, we can do it with diabetes. We can definitely move forward as an educated society.”

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