Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Home Visits Help Immigrants in St. Louis Fight Diabetes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Home Visits Help Immigrants in St. Louis Fight Diabetes

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * The room with the lavender-colored walls is a gathering place for Hector Flores and his family in their Central West End apartment.

A dining table dominates the room, sharing space with a TV, couch and shelves filled with framed photos.

On a recent lunch break from his construction job, Flores sat at the end of the table, bottles of medication lined up in front of him. On this day, the room also was serving as a health clinic of sorts, a place for Flores to see how he is faring in an effort to control his diabetes.

"How are you doing?" case manager Mary Shannon asked Flores in Spanish. She and Vicki Moran, a volunteer nurse from St. Louis University, were there on behalf of Casa de Salud, a clinic for foreign-born residents who are uninsured.

Flores tells Shannon he is doing well. He is eating better, exercising and trying to reduce stress by listening to classical music.

"Perfecto," Shannon said.

Flores is one of the clinic's patients in a home-visit program targeting those with diabetes or at risk for the disease. About one- third of Casa de Salud's clients are in that category, clinic president Jorge Riopedre said.

Prior to the program, which has now served 50 patients over 18 months, Casa held diabetes education and nutrition classes at the clinic in midtown.

"The bottom line, they were poorly attended. People simply have too many transportation issues and life issues," Riopedre said. "Our patients are all over the place, and given their obstacles, they can't easily get to us. We had to find a way to get to them."

Diabetes left untreated can lead to kidney failure, and the overwhelming majority of the 120,000 people nationwide waiting for a lifesaving transplant are in need of a kidney, said Kevin Lee, executive director of Mid-America Transplant Foundation, which supplied the grant for Casa's home visit program.

"The foundation wants to diligently look at efforts to help people manage their health care, take care of their kidneys and prevent them from going onto the transplant list," Lee said.

More broccoli

The program includes three home visits per patient over six months. Earlier this month marked the final visit for Flores, although he is encouraged to make follow-up visits to Casa or another clinic, or call with questions.

Prior to the visits, "I was not understanding how to get rid of it," Flores said with translation help from Shannon. "We need to be educated about this."

For example, he did not know that stress from working long hours was a factor in diabetes. And all that work was leaving him tired, doing little activity once he got home. Now, he and his wife, Maria Herrera, take hour-long walks, twice a week.

Herrera sat in on the last home visit, asking questions along the way. As the primary cook in the family, she sometimes prepares separate meals for her husband so that he gets more vegetables into his diet. …

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