Diabetes Prevention Program Helps RGV Community

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BROWNSVILLE – A group of physicians, social workers, researchers and community activists are working to build healthier communities in the Rio Grande Valley.

Salud Y Vida is a two-year program that combines research, home visits, group discussions and medication management. The program also helps others identify emotions and set new goals.

Alma Martinez, leader of the organization, said diabetes had been winning the fight for 25 years.

“After my first pregnancy I started on insulin to control and manage diabetes,” she said.

Martinez received news six years ago that made her take control of her health and life.

“Learning that I was expecting a grandchild that just made a change; I felt like I needed to be around,” she said. “I started with setting small goals. I decided eating the way I was eating was no longer an option.”

Martinez currently teaches what she learned. The psychology behind her lessons is based in research from the University Of Texas School Of Public Health in Brownsville

Dr. Belinda Reininger studies diabetes in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Being healthy isn’t just one choice on one day. Being healthy is a series of choices across the day and then across 365 days. It’s creating systems of change,” she said.

She works to implement strategies to help or manage the disease.

“We create a specific intervention strategy and then we test it. We’re saying, ‘Okay, people who are exposed to this intervention, did their weight improve? Did their blood glucose level improve? Did their blood pressure improve?’” she said. “You’re measuring aspect of what predicts people’s long-term habit and behaviors.”

The physician said the research shows the program is working.

“In many ways we’re seeing progress. We’re seeing progress around communities embracing the importance of being physically active,” Dr. Reininger said. “That means generations to come are going to see improvements there. We’re going to be preventing and helping people manage. We’re seeing more awareness of the importance of healthy eating.”


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