Andres Almonte is a member of the community of Pancho Mateo in Montellano. At 55 he was suffering from hypertension and obesity when he began as a patient with Health Horizons International. Andres became one of HHI’s Chronic Care patients in 2010, because of his hypertension, but although he was receiving free medication and monthly support from his Community Health Worker, it was not until he joined Sano y Feliz that he was able to experience major improvements in his health. Andres has been a participant in HHI’s healthy lifestyle program called Sano y Feliz for the past year. 2014 has been a transformative year for Andres. The following lines describe his experience:
“Before joining Sano y Feliz my health condition was very bad with high blood pressure and cholesterol and problems with my left foot. I am under treatment for these conditions. I am currently taking only 2 medicines and eating less fat and salt. I have lost 19 pounds in the past 6 months.”
Andres can confidently relate all the key messages transmitted by the Community Health Workers during the Sano y Feliz meetings regarding eating habits, and the importance of integrating regular physical activities in to his daily life. Before joining Sano y Feliz Andres had difficulty walking the short distances that were required to get around his house and carry out his daily life due to his weight and ill health. Since he has joined Sano y Feliz he has discovered a love of walking and now can be found walking in the early mornings on the streets of Pancho Mateo for one hour every day.
Sano y Feliz (Spanish for Healthy and Happy), one of the programs that Health Horizons International is carrying out in the Dominican Republic, aims to promote healthy behavior change through community based support groups that are led by Community Health Workers trained by HHI. During the weekly sessions, Andres has learned about the causes and consequences of hypertension and obesity making him conscious about his health status. He is aware of complications such as “infarto o derrame,” popular terms to refer to heart attack and stroke that could happen if he does not control certain risk factors.
During Sano y Feliz, the group focuses on finding local, accessible and culturally acceptable strategies to combat chronic disease in the Dominican Republic. During the meetings, members share experiences about their efforts to improve their diet and exercise, check their weight, and track their progress in achieving their health goals.
By using a simple color-coded food diary, Andres became aware that he needed to make drastic changes in his eating habits, which he describes here:
“Currently I am eating more healthy foods and decreasing salt intake and fat especially during the night. This makes me feel better.”
Andres tells HHI that this emotional improvement, which has positively affected his wellbeing, is one of the reasons he encourages any community member to be a part of Sano y Feliz. Since joining Sano y Feliz, Andres has had an entire year of normal blood pressure and his doctor has even eliminated one of his medications because he no longer needs to take it anymore, due to his positive healthy behavior changes. His success story is an inspiration to many people in his community and to all of us at HHI.
Health Horizons International is currently developing, in partnership with the Dominican Ministry of Public Health, a program to test out the Sano y Feliz model on a larger scale to scientifically evaluate the success of the Sano y Feliz strategy in promoting healthy behavior change and preventing chronic disease.
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