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Youth use poetry to raise diabetes awareness

San Francisco youth have armed themselves with poetry in the fight against diabetes.

On June 5, San Francisco-based non-profit, Youth Speaks and UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations launched The Bigger Picture, a youth-led diabetes prevention campaign aimed at raising awareness about the disease and addressing factors leading to the current epidemic.

Sarah Fine, project director for the Youth Speaks UCSF Public Health Literacy Project, told New America Media:

“This campaign is more about the social determinants of the disease. We want to change the conversation to what are the social forces exacerbating the epidemic and what can we do to affect change.”

A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month, showed one in four youth between the ages of 12 and 19 have pre-diabetes, compared to one in 11 a decade ago.

Youth Speaks works with nearly 45,000 young people each year in the Bay Area through various types of programs aimed to encourage them to find their voice and promote social change. This campaign challenges young artists and poets to use their talents to raise awareness about diabetes and instigate social action.

This fall, youth poets participating in the The Bigger Picture will go to five high schools in The City and five in Oakland to host writing workshops to encourage other youth to upload a poem or video about their story to the campaign’s website.

The poems and videos will be judged and winners will receive educational scholarships.

While this is currently only a two-year pilot program, organizers hope it will eventually become a national campaign.

Dr. Dean Schillinger, professor of medicine at UCSF and chief of the Diabetes Prevention and Control Program for the California Department of Public Health told New America Media:

“Diabetes is linked to one station or place in life. People with low-income, or only high school, education have a five times greater chance of getting Type 2 diabetes.”

In one spoken word video called “The Corner”, Jose Vadi, a youth poet from Oakland, describes the issues youth face today in meal choices:

“We’re standing on the corner between healthy and heart attack, not sure which way to cross. On one side, an organic grocery store, the other, deep-fried death. Our bodies pull us away from the produce aisle into value meal heaven, ignoring the question of what part of a chicken is a nugget anyway.”

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