Understanding Health for a Better Life: My Family’s Story

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By: Frances Yañez

We knew my grandpa had diabetes, but we didn’t know how serious that really was. He didn’t take insulin or talk about his health, and we didn’t ask…we didn’t know what to ask. Asking grandpa about his health meant the possibility of learning that his health was worse than we could imagine. Diabetes scared us into silence. Fear kept us from the truth.

What we didn’t know is that almost 20% of Latinos in the United States have diabetes, and the disease is a leading cause of death among Latinos across the board. Complications are numerous and serious. You become prone to skin infections, blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Grandpa faced language and cultural barriers that kept him from learning about his disease and seeking quality health care. Being uneducated about his conditions led to problems. He didn’t understand, so the family didn’t know how to support him. Based on my experiences, I believe the key to eliminating this barrier to education and care for the Latino community is speaking up. We have to be comfortable talking about health with our families and with our family doctors. This means asking one another about health, getting screened for diabetes, and regular checkups.

Since my grandpa passed away, my family has opened up about health. We can talk about diabetes, and we are educating ourselves. We eat more fruits and vegetables at every meal, my husband and I go on more walks, and my son loves helping me make healthy snacks for him and his sister. I know my grandpa would be proud.

If you would like to learn more about how to make smarter shopping and eating choices, or if you would like to know how to get medical insurance or medical screenings please contact the Hispanic Center at 616-742-0200.

Frances Yañez is the program coordinator for the Hispanic Center’s healthy eating initiative, Comprando Rico y Sano. She is passionate about educating the Latino community about health, and empowering the migrant community to take back their salud. She currently resides in Sparta, Michigan with her husband, kids, and her dog, Lucy.