Yes We Can/Sí Podemos: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Program

How UD Cooperative Extension lowered diabetes risk in African American and Hispanic populations in two Delaware counties


According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of the Hispanic population and over 30% of the African American population in Delaware are overweight. Based on the 2014 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation county health rankings, Kent County has the highest rate of obesity (33%) and physical inactivity (28%), followed by New Castle County with the second highest rate of obesity (28%) and physical inactivity (22%). The CDC determined that:

  • Nutrition, physical activity and obesity rank among the top 10 indicators linked causally to early death
  • After years of steady decline, the number of diabetes deaths has increased
  • Individuals who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop diabetes
  • Heart disease and certain cancers have been linked to a poor diet and lack of physical activity


UD Cooperative Extension initiated the Yes We Can (Kent County) and the Sí Podemos (New Castle County) programs to increase the health of local populations. Both programs kicked off a seven-month challenge that encouraged individual and community wellness through friendly competition.

  • In New Castle County, a Hispanic educator was hired to network with the Hispanic community
  • In Kent County, an African American educator worked through African American churches
  • Individuals participated in several UD Cooperative Extension programs, including Dining with Diabetes, Eating Heart Smart, Mealtime in Less Time, Mindful Eating and the Shopping Challenge
  • Website materials and a newsletter offered tips to track physical activity and healthy eating efforts
  • Competitions in each county brought teams together and highlighted participants’ successes


A total of 91 individuals (45 in New Castle County and 46 in Kent County) completed the challenges. Pre- and post-evaluations showed that participants increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables by more than 50%, decreased their body mass index and increased their leisure-time exercise. Specific to the Dining with Diabetes program in New Castle County, participants reported increases in eating five or more fruits and vegetables daily (88%), reading nutrition facts labels (50%) and being physically active at least 30 minutes three times per week (61%). Also, 56% reported eating smaller portions, 56% used recipes from class and 44% examined their feet more often for blisters, ulcers, wounds and swelling, as poor circulation caused by diabetes can slow healing.

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