“I’ve got to tell you what happened. I’ve lost 40 pounds. My A1C [glucose level] is below seven. The nurse who has been seeing me for a year said, ‘How are you doing it?’”

Debby Horowitz, Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging’s (WCAAA) Live Well regional coordinator, knew the answer before Audrey could finish her story. In 2018, Live Well with Diabetes workshops, based on the highly successful Stanford University model and spearheaded by WCAAA, helped 160 Waterburians like Audrey gain self-confidence in their abilities to control their diabetes and manage symptoms.

Now, fueled by a new $25,000 grant from Connecticut Community Foundation, WCAAA plans to offer the diabetes workshops to more people in Waterbury. Said Horowitz, “We also want to train more leaders who live, work or worship in Waterbury and who are invested in the city.”

Horowitz has very effective advocates: the call for workshop leaders and participants is emanating from Waterbury pulpits.

WCAAA is banking on the trust that exists between congregants and their faith leaders to sound the alarm about the disease’s devastating effects and to promote Live Well as a solution. (“People often trust two people in their lives, right? Their doc and their pastor,” says Horowitz.)

Eleven percent of Waterbury adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and the city has high percentages of adults with poor general, physical and mental health, who are obese, who lack health care coverage and who don’t have a personal doctor―factors that push the risk of diabetes higher.  And throughout Connecticut, racial and ethnic minorities are affected disproportionately: 14% of Hispanic/Latino adults and 13% of Black/African-American adults have diabetes.

With encouragement and support from WCAAA, Waterbury pastors―recognizing that diabetes is threatening many of their congregants―are preaching about the benefits of the Live Well workshops.  Pastor Rodney Burke of Alpha & Omega Kingdom Ministries even used Facebook to put the word out, and later this year is co-leading another workshop himself.

Around the city, Zion Baptist Church, Mount Olive, House of Prayer, Todos Los Santos, First Assembly of God, St. Francis Xavier and Long Hill Bible Church have all hosted or plan to host a workshop. Some have been held in Spanish, thanks to Horowitz and her team’s determination to recruit bilingual leaders who reflect their communities.

Grant funding from the Foundation provides incentives through stipends for volunteer leaders, books (Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions) for each participant, and grocery gift cards for each person who completes four of six workshop sessions.

Results have been impressive. In 2018, WCAAA exceeded its goals for Live Well with Diabetes workshops held in Waterbury (13), participants (160) and program completers (121). The completion rate, 76%, was above the national average.

An additional 120 people across 41 towns in Western Connecticut attended WCAAA’s other Live Well offerings related to chronic disease and chronic pain. Some were held in Waterbury locations housing older adults and people with disabilities, where the workshops reached participants who typically have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, parks where they can exercise or safe neighborhoods to walk.

After completing the workshop series, Live Well graduates have new skills ranging from menu planning to tactics for managing stress or depression.

Does it really matter? Just ask Audrey.

Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging is holding Live Well workshop leader trainings in April and May, 2019. To learn more, contact Debby Horowitz at dhorowitz@wcaaa.org or 203.757.5449, x125.

Photos courtesy of Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging. At top left, a new class of Live Well with Chronic Pain graduates show off their certificates. At top right, Pastor Rodney Burke with Debby Horowitz after he was awarded his Live Well with Diabetes Leader certificate. 

See the Greater Waterbury Community Well-Being Profile for more data about residents’ health