In an effort to promote Diabetes Awareness Month, The University of Texas-Pan American's Border Health Office seeks to increase enrollment of fourth graders in the School Education and Enrollment Project (SEEP). The program is designed to teach students about diabetes, its symptoms and how to prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes and it relies on students to deliver the message to their parents, relatives and neighbors.
"The Texas-Mexico Border Diabetes Registry reported that more than 21 percent of the Valley's population had diabetes. That is three times higher than the national average of 6.2 percent," said Eddie Quintanilla, health education coordinator at the UTPA Border Health Office. "SEEP will supply a quarterly newsletter with health information and recipes for healthier eating to all those who sign up. We really see this program making a difference to the Valley."
The SEEP annual program began in 1996 and includes the participation of 31 school districts in Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties. This year the program will include the participation of more than 19,000 students and 1,200 teachers and nurses. Although November is Diabetes Awareness month, the actual implementation of SEEP's classroom lessons begins Nov. 17-21.
"We believe that the regular reinforcement provided by this information will encourage self-management among people with or at risk of diabetes," said Ruby De La Garza, health education coordinator at the UTPA Border Health Office. "By registering we hope the participants become active regarding issues about their health."
In an effort to target fourth graders SEEP distributes a cartoon entitled "Dinobetes" that playfully turns the concept of the disease into language and principles that the children can understand.
"We feel that fourth graders are of an age that they can understand the seriousness of the disease and incorporate those ideas into their lives and lives of their loved ones," Quintanilla said. "The students were selected because their age reflects a period where they are dependable, responsible and can understand the importance of healthy lifestyle changes."
The Diabetes Registry currently has over 25,000 people enrolled. This year UTPA Border Health Office hopes the distribution of the teacher packets, which include a 30 minute lesson plan, cartoon and registration forms, will increase those numbers substantially.
For more information contact Quintanilla or De La Garza at 956/ 381-3687.