September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and each day, the staff of the Family Wellness Program at St. Vincent de Paul operates a culturally responsive intervention program that provides families and individuals with education, lifestyle improvement skills and medical and counseling services to improve their health. Our program specializes in serving children and families at risk for, or diagnosed with, diabetes and diabetes-related illnesses.
The health and wellness of families is at the forefront of our mission, which is why it’s important for families to establish healthy eating and exercise habits at an early age. One in three children in the United States are overweight or obese and childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
With this National Awareness months, the Family Wellness Program wanted to share a story that illustrates the positive impact a healthy lifestyle can have on a child’s life.
Joel Lora came to us when he was eight years old. His initial health screening revealed that in addition to kidney disease, Joel’s diet and lack of exercise had put him on the path to prediabetes.
Both of his kidneys were metastasizing and dying, and due to his diet, his blood glucose levels were so high, it was as if honey was being pushed through his veins.
Realizing Joel needed to adopt healthier habits, we asked the family to attend our Every Little Step Counts program. This 12 class course, teaches families how to lead a healthier lifestyle through nutrition education and exercise.
Joel’s mother, Maria Lora, told us that believed she was giving her son the perfect diet for his kidneys. In reality, the Lora family’s diet was high in carbohydrates and fats. The food that Joel Lora was eating was contributing to his prediabetes and making his kidneys work harder.
The lessons taught at the Every Little Step Counts classes helped not only Joel, but his entire family as well. Together they developed a gym regimen and worked to prepare meals that were healthy and well proportioned.
Through hard work and determination, Maria Lora and her daughter were able to lose weight and her husband and son are no longer facing prediabetes. But perhaps the family’s greatest success is that Joel Lora’s kidney disease is now in remission.
It has been nine years since the Loras’ first visit to St. Vincent de Paul’s Family Wellness Clinic, and while it has not been the easiest journey it has changed their lives for the better. Without the support and education the Loras believe that their son’s disease would not be in remission.
When he reflects on his health journey he wants others to challenge themselves to adopt a healthier lifestyle, because for him, these changes saved his life.
With his kidney disease in remission, Joel is focusing on the future. He is a current student at Phoenix College and working towards a teaching career at his dream school, Northern Arizona University.
Next month, we will offer up some useful tips and information on ways to keep kids healthy and free from obesity issues.
By: Elva Hooker, Certified Diabetes Educator at St. Vincent de Paul Family Wellness Program
Elva Hooker Elva Hooker is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator at St. Vincent de Paul Family Wellness Program. She is a native Arizonian and a graduate from Arizona State University. As the Family Wellness Program Director her focus has been in diabetes prevention and management education that empowers individuals and families in their health.