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November is American Diabetes Month—and with the Thanksgiving holiday just a few days away, Schweitzer Fellow Ricardo Sedan is taking action to teach healthy cooking at a time when most people eat high-fat, high-calorie meals.

Sedan, whose Fellowship is supported in part by a grant from Novo Nordisk aimed at preventing and controlling diabetes in at-risk populations, has spent his Fellowship year implementing a bilingual, interactive health education program for at-risk, low-income Charlestown residents who face language, environmental, and other barriers to good health.

“The program targets people who have diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and/or are obese, and who have been referred to us by their primary care health provider,” says the MGH Institute of Health Professions School of Nursing student.

On Friday, Sedan held a Thanksgiving-themed cooking class and feast with his clients. Like his previous health education/cooking classes, this special event took place at the Kennedy Center in conjunction with the MGH Charlestown HealthCare Center. Sedan raised funds for the special Thanksgiving session via Cauzoom, in hopes of putting together an event that would provide culturally competent health information and cooking tips; recruit potential new clients for the class from among the local Latino population; and provide an opportunity for sharing and fellowship for a community that lives under a lot of stress and with few resources.

“Thank you to all our supporters—the Thanksgiving class/dinner went great, with about 35 attendees,” Sedan says. “We recruited some new attendees to our ongoing group, including a couple who jumped in to cook dinner with us.”

In addition to Thanksgiving staples like smoked turkey and stuffing, the menu included roasted green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, stir-fried broccoli with garlic, a yogurt pie, and a salad made with shredded beets, parsnips, and butternut squash.

“We don’t want to totally eliminate yummy fatty stuff; we just want to mix it up in a good healthy plate with lots of vegetables and other sources of fiber,” Sedan says. “At a time of year when many people are focused on eating high-fat, high-calorie, high-sodium, and high-sugar foods, this was a tremendous opportunity to simultaneously deliver practical health education, promote behavior change, and encourage community members to connect with and act as resources for each other.”

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