Diabetes Initiative Inspires Physicians and Community Leaders

Dr. Arshiya Baig of the University of Chicago Medical Center

Dr. Arshiya Baig

A University of Chicago Medicine physician is taking special steps to help the Latino population in Chicago fight back against diabetes. Little Village is a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood in Chicago that has a diabetes-related mortality rate higher than the national average and the average in Chicago. Arshiya Baig, MD, General Internist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Department of Medicine, has established a unique program to involve local churches in educating Latino Americans about diabetes.

“Since the church has an important role in many Latino cultures and families, working with churches to address diabetes is one method of tailoring diabetes programs to this community,” Dr. Baig said.

Picture Good HealthWith community members and two partner churches — St. Agnes of Bohemia and Our Lady of Tepeyac — she launched Picture Good Health/Imagínate una Buena Salud, a bilingual, eight-week educational program. The curriculum uses an innovative technique called “photovoice” where participants receive disposable digital cameras to document their lives with diabetes. These photos are then used to guide classes in problem solving.

Participants also have access to exercise groups within the churches. The program also includes a patient navigator service that assists participants in finding a local primary care physician.

“We motivate our participants to live a healthy lifestyle and provide them with tools to do that in a fun, creative, and supportive atmosphere,” Dr. Baig said.

Louis H. Philipson , MD, PhD, Director of the Kovler Diabetes Center was a mentor to Dr. Baig. He noted that her work reaches a population that sometimes faces obstacles in receiving health care.

“Dr. Baig is doing important work to better understand the impact of diabetes in the community and to help devise ways to improve the lives of people with limited access,” he said.

In reality, much of diabetes care and management happens outside of the clinic, Dr. Baig noted. Additionally, an important aspect of the Latino culture is its emphasis on family and community. With this program, the participants can invite family members for a graduation party on the last day of class.

Kovler Diabetes Center and Picture Good Health Program

Participants in the "Picture Good Health" program

“The family gets to celebrate the participant’s achievements and see how much they have learned,” she said. Monica Peek, MD, General Internist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine, said the project holds great promise.

“Dr. Baig’s work uses innovative, culturally-tailored approaches to address a much-needed health issue in the Mexican-American community,” Peek said. “We’re excited about her work and its ability to improve the lives of people with diabetes here in Chicago, as well as serve as a model for others throughout the country.”

The program is currently being piloted at the two partner churches to assess its impact on diabetes control. “It gives me great pride to know that my colleagues and I are working with the Hispanic community, specifically within Chicago, to improve diabetes management and awareness,” Dr. Baig said.

This article appeared in the latest edition of Kovler Connection.  For more information on Picture Good Health, please contact the study team at 773-702-0770 or read these earlier blog posts about this program.


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