Kick Start a Healthier New Year with HAP

Kick Start a Healthier New Year with HAP

By Damon Guinn
Improve your health with HAP
HAP Lifestyle Coach Moua Meng Yang helps local residents improve their health through exercise.

We’re only one month into 2019, and if you’re anything like me, all the New Year’s resolutions you planned to start the moment the clock struck midnight are quickly fading into distant memories.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. The time management firm FranklinCovey found that one third of people who make resolutions give up before the end of January. One of the reasons is because we tend to choose overly ambitious goals with unrealistic expectations. Experts recommend that we start with small changes instead.

This is especially sound advice for people who want to overcome addiction or overindulgence, as many of us resolve to do at the start of the year. But it’s hard to cut back when we have to go it alone. It’s much easier and more effective when we can turn to others who know where we?re coming from.

HAP serves that role in the community by offering culturally sensitive programs to help people battle addiction and lead healthier lives. Take HAP’s Chemical Health program, for instance. Funded by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, the program provides peer recovery support to people struggling with chemical dependency and substance use or misuse issues.

Hmong community leaders have noted that excessive drinking and smoking are often encouraged at community gatherings, making the practices part of the cultural identity, particularly among men. Those who don’t indulge may not receive the same degree of respect as those who do.

HAP’s Chemical Health program is designed and delivered by community members who understand these cultural ramifications. They have been through recovery themselves and can connect with participants on a personal level. They create a welcoming environment where participants share stories and advice and meet up for dinner, movies, and other activities to help one another stay sober. These activities not only help clients maintain sobriety, they also make it easier for participants to find and maintain employment and improve relationships.

A New Year, Not Another Drag

HAP’s Tobacco Prevention program is another approach the organization offers to help community members lead healthier lives in 2019. The program is funded through the state’s Tobacco Free Communities initiative and aims to prevent the use of commercial tobacco and nicotine among youth. It also provides community outreach, education, and referrals to counseling services to promote the reduction of tobacco use and help people quit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the country, with 480,000 people dying every year.” Smoking has been linked to diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, emphysema, and cancer.

Pa Xiong Vang, HAP’s Tobacco Prevention Coordinator, knows the health risks of tobacco all too well. Her grandmother died of cancer after a lifetime of chewing tobacco. “I think that?s why my work is so important to me,” Pa said. “Because it hits home, and I don’t want it to hit other homes.”

This year Pa will wrap up a needs assessment that will provide insight on tobacco use in the Hmong community. She believes that tobacco use is underreported because many users who smoke socially or vape and use e-cigs don’t consider themselves to be tobacco users. Pa wants to create greater awareness about the effects of tobacco use, especially among youth.

“In 2019, I hope to continue providing opportunities for youth to stay or become tobacco-free through fun activities, workshops, and retreats,” Pa shared. She leads a culturally specific youth group called Pathways to Success that teaches high-schoolers leadership and team-building skills while training them to become health advocates.

Cutting Back to Control Unwanted Outcomes

Of course, abstaining from smoking and drinking can be substituted with other indulgences, like overeating. And high-fat and sugary foods offer an all-too-easy and satisfying option. Unfortunately, they can also increase the risk of diabetes, a disease with an increasing prevalence in the Hmong community.

If your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier or control your diet, HAP’s Diabetes Prevention program can help. Lindsey Lee, the Diabetes Coach, coordinates the program. Joining her is Lifestyle Coach Moua Meng Yang.  Moua Meng leads one-to-one and group coaching sessions that help participants make small changes to lose five to seven percent of their body weight and gradually gain 150 minutes of physical activity. Together, Lindsey and Moua Meng serve over 50 clients, with a particular focus on fighting diabetes.

Lindsey notes that overeating and lack of physical activity are two primary factors that put people at risk of type 2 diabetes. She advises her clients to use the “plate method” recommended by the CDC to control food portions. “Looking at your basic nine-inch dinner plate, draw an imaginary line down the middle of the plate and divide one side in half,” she suggested. “Then fill the largest section with non-starchy vegetables, put a grain or starchy food in one of the smaller sections, and put your protein in the other small section.”

So . . . even if some of us are a month behind on our New Year’s resolutions, there’s still plenty of time to change our habits and work to achieve healthier lives. With the right support, 2019 can be our best year yet!

Are you ready to get healthier in 2019? Give us a call at 651-495-1699 to inquire about any of the programs above.

This article originally appeared in the January 30, 2018 issue of Hmong Times. Click here to view the article on their website. 

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