Pounds coming off in diabetes, heart program

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017


NATCHEZ — Collectively, members of the Natchez Diabetes and Heart Disease Program have lost more than 500 pounds halfway through the program, approximately 200 pounds more than the total weight loss of last year’s program.

“We’re halfway there,” Program Director Getty Israel said. “There are people who have exceeded the required exercise per day, and they’ve lost the most weight.”

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Some of the participants have had so much success in the program, Israel said, that they have been able to stop taking certain medications.

Leight Neil White, a retired helicopter mechanic with Chevron, is one such participant.

White said he works out five days a week and attends one of the program’s classes at least once a week.

“You work on just changing your lifestyle,” White said. “The way you look at stuff changes. It’s just a life-changing program.”

White said his blood pressure and glucose levels dropped so drastically that he was able to stop taking a diabetes medication.

“You have to want it,” White said.

Israel said the success comes, in part, from changes to the program.

Israel added two more classes to the weekly schedule and moved the program from local churches to Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus.

The centrality of the Co-Lin campus was easier for participants to utilize, Israel said.

Despite this success, Israel said she wants the program to grow.

“The state of Mississippi is bloody red when you look at diabetes rates,” she said. “We created an intervention. If (participants) can lose weight, they can be saved.”

Israel said dozens of health problems follow unhealthy lifestyles and that programs such as this can help alleviate those issues.

“We need to replicate the program,” Israel said. “This needs to be in every community. Our people are dying of preventable diseases.”

Israel said she would like to challenge community leaders such as ministers, school teachers and principals and members of local government to get involved in the program, if not for their own sake, then for the sake of their constituents.

“There is a church on every block in Natchez,” Israel said. “Imagine what would happen if every church had a health program, if every minister said, ‘Let’s start eating healthy because diabetes is killing us.’”

Israel said she has reached out to local ministers before, but to little avail.

Israel said until members of the community realizes they will die if they do not change, she can do little but help those who have already started working on themselves.

“They have to want this,” Israel said. “They have to want to live, and it has to mean more to them than their taste buds.”