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Diabetes prevention class overcomes setbacks to earn graduation ceremony

Health

These determined graduates crossed the stage to pick up their certificates, sang and celebrated their success.
The Dunbar diabetes prevention program class of 2019 gathered at the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church on Friday evening with nearly 50 supportive family, friends and previous program graduates to mark this moment in their lives.
But it nearly didn’t happen.
Just two months before graduation, this class wasn’t making the grade. To graduate, the 13 participants had to lose 5 percent of their collective weight.
“We didn’t keep up what we needed to do,” participant Cherrie Morris says. “We got back into bad habits.”
First, Hurricane Florence in the fall disrupted their progress by interfering with their ability to exercise and stay with their healthy eating habits.
But they recovered, and halfway through the year-long class, the group had lost 3.6 percent of their collective weight. But then they slipped, and with only two months until graduation, they had only lost 1.6 percent of their overall weight.

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Instructor Shawn Garrett, a community health worker with Tidelands Health, pushed them to do better. They ended with 5.2 percent weight loss and earned the privilege to walk across the stage Friday.
“They had about two months to get their act together,” Garrett says. “I am so proud of them and all the obstacles they had to face. They did it.”
Morris, who lost 22 pounds, says the participants were determined to meet the goal and earn their special night.
“We came closer together as a team and started walking together,” she said. “We came together and worked diligently to get where we are today.”
For a year, the participants attended regular classes teaching them about diabetes and how to prevent it through regular exercise and healthy eating. They learned how to measure food, which foods to limit or avoid and other tips to help reduce their chances of developing diabetes. Roughly half the residents in Georgetown County either have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
“This is the ultimate avoidable disease,” says Dr. Phil Nicol with the Tidelands Health Diabetes Center who delivered the keynote speech during Friday’s graduation. “Virtually every case of diabetes is self-induced. Our health habits in this country have not been very good.”

Community-based effort

The diabetes prevention program teaches healthy habits to help people reduce their risk of diabetes. The community-based effort, which has full recognition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers education and support to help people improve their health and delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. Classes are held in churches, community centers and businesses.
“Tonight, we celebrate because we have completed a class to give us the tools to fight this disease,” participant Betty Linen said. “Let us share the knowledge we have gained.”
Through the ceremony, they celebrated their health. They celebrated better chances of not ending up in the hospital because of a disease that is preventable. They celebrated fitting into clothes they hadn’t worn for years.

“This class has been a life-changer for me,” said Erthelle Linen, who graduated from the program Friday.
Celestine Linen lost the most weight – 31 pounds. She started taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator and eating healthier, cutting back on some of her favorites including Mountain Dew and fried chicken.
“It was hard but everybody communicated, ‘We can’t give up. We have to work together,’” she said.
While the graduation marked the end of their class, the journey isn’t over for this group. The exercise and eating habits are a lifelong commitment they’ve promised each other they will continue.
“Oh, gosh yes,” Morris said. “I’m not falling back into those bad eating habits.
“I feel a difference. I’ve gotten into clothes I haven’t worn for years. I have more energy. It definitely makes a difference.”

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