A Nyack Hospital program called Mamas Maravillosas is helping Latina mothers reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes by supporting them in losing weight. The program targets Latina women who are overweight, obese or have other risk factors that put them at a higher risk for diabetes.
The goal is for all of the mothers to lose 5-7% of their body weight, and for new mothers to lose the weight gained in pregnancy, plus an additional 5-7% of body weight. “There is strong evidence that a 5-7% weight loss will significantly lower the mother’s risk of diabetes–both Type 2 and pregnancy-related diabetes (known as gestational diabetes) in subsequent pregnancies,” said Elizabeth Staum, Community Health Educator for Nyack Hospital, who runs the program.
Mamas Maravillosas promotes increased physical activity, healthier food choices, and breastfeeding for as long as possible through the baby’s first year. The program follows the curriculum for the National Diabetes Prevention Program in Spanish. At each group, women are weighed and asked for a report of minutes of physical activity completed in the past week. “We educate on a topic of the day using facilitated group discussion, have a healthy snack, do a physical activity break, set specific, realistic goals for the coming week, and give a small health-related incentive gift,” Staum said.
The program is being offered through the Community Health Education Department of Nyack Hospital. It is held in Spring Valley, where the majority of the women in the target population live.
This past year, there were two Mamas Maravillosas groups—one beginning in April and one in August. The April group had 21 sessions, while the August group had 17. Sessions were offered on a weekly basis through session 16, then on a monthly basis afterward.
There were 31 participants in total. Of these, there were 14 regular participants who attended four times or more—11 had an excellent attendance of nine sessions or more. Of the women who came four or more times, the average starting weight was 163.6 pounds, and the average weight loss was 4.8 pounds (an average of 3.2%).
This past year, those who came nine or more times tended to lose more weight than those who came four to eight times. “This suggests the more women came, the more they lost,” Staum said. “This means overcoming barriers to regular attendance continues to be the number one area to focus on to increase the program’s benefits.”
More women attended the group regularly in 2017 compared with the previous year. Staum notes this year women were allowed to have telephone makeup sessions, which allowed them to continue to feel connected to the class even when they missed a session. “We had an increase from five to 11 participants who managed to come nine times or more, where we tend to see the greatest effect on weight loss,” she said.
Other changes in 2017 included opening up the group to all Latina mothers, instead of just new mothers. “By allowing mothers of older children to attend, many more women were able to attend who now felt they were in a stage of their lives where they could focus on weight loss and diabetes prevention,” Staum said. “The postpartum period is very challenging and not always a feasible time for all mothers to focus on their own health.”
Like most women, those in the program face challenges, but there are stressors for these ladies that are unique to them. Two of the participants experienced family health issues, had difficulty in registering their children for school, and had the heartache of their family member’s home being destroyed in an earthquake in Mexico. But, both women found that participation in the group helped them focus and successfully lose weight.
Two participants were friends who were inspired by the class to start organizing soccer games where their families played as teams. Another participant was inspired by information about looking for social support and spoke with her employer about her efforts to lose weight. The employer happily agreed to start providing healthier lunch options. Another participant had noticed how out of breath she was when playing with her daughter, and used the class as a way to help her stay on track in her new healthy lifestyle.
“We are continually looking for opportunities to make this program even more successful,” Staum said. “The number of women who stay in the program has been increasing every year, and we want to improve these numbers even more. We will also be trying to boost the number of new participants and find ways to keep women physically active in winter months.”
For more information about Mamas Maravillosas, please call 845-348-2004, 845-348-3057 (Spanish speaking).