St. Louis YMCA to expand diabetes prevention to metro-east

News-DemocratMarch 7, 2014 

The YMCA of Greater St. Louis recently received a $99,000 federal grant to help expand healthy living initiatives into the metro-east.

The Community Transformation Grant, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aims to reduce health disparities in the nation's most vulnerable communities, particularly African American and Hispanic communities.

The grant will help programs like the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program expand to Belleville, Cahokia, East St. Louis and Fairmont City, in addition to St. Louis City, and Ferguson and Florissant, Mo.

"The main effort is to implement programs and policies that overhaul help with making healthier lifestyle choices when it come to our communities," explained Joyce Hoth, community health director of the YMCA of Greater St. Louis.

"It's a great opportunity for us to partner with other organizations," she said, mentioning local government, health departments and other nonprofits.

Mark Peters, of the St. Clair County Health Department, said the Y's community transformation grant plays well in to St. Clair County's collective impact goal: "To become a national model for achieving successful impact for healthy eating and active living to reduce obesity and health disparity."

To get the Diabetes Prevention Program up and running in St. Clair County could take as long as 18 months, Peters said.

Peters said diabetes, along with lung cancer and heart disease, was recognized as a chronic disease in need of prevention by the health department's community health assessment.

"To have a prevention program for one of them gets upstream of the problem," he said.

The grant focuses on minorities because "obesity rates are higher, the risk of diabetes is higher and there are educational disparities, so they might not have access to some the healthy eating and physical activity guidelines that we have put out," Hoth said.

Seven other YMCAs also will share in $1.3 million Community Transformation Grant to advance strategies related to active living and healthy eating, in addition to other areas, with a focus on serving African-American and Hispanics/Latinos nationwide.

The YMCA of Greater St. Louis and the YMCA of Southwest Illinois are in the process of merging to form the Gateway Region YMCA.

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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