Diabetes affects one in six adults in Mexico, with a higher rate in women than men. Mexico is also the most obese country in the world. To fight the diabetes epidemic, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints designed a manual with Mexico City officials to help citizens fight for their health.
“The Mexico area is trying to do a lot about diabetes prevention because it’s really, really bad down there,” says Seth Larson (‘22), a public health student and research travel grant recipient. The funding granted Larson the opportunity to research the severity of diabetes in Mexico City and explore possible solutions.
Larson is creating a health manual outlining ways for Mexicans to create healthier lifestyles. “One of the reasons I love the Church is that it’s conscious of that,” he says. “They’re not just worried about the spiritual health of everyone, but the actual physical health of their population.” Larson explains that the manual’s purpose is to detail how to use the available resources to prevent diabetes, including activities to maintain overall health as a family.
On his own, Larson also conducted broader research by observing different age groups attending self-reliance classes. Members of the Church volunteer to operate these classes, teaching concepts like personal finances and self-efficacy on a weekly basis. Larson concluded that the issues citizens faced “all [start] with finances.” He found that if an individual was successful in the personal finance course, they were more likely to be successful in other courses. Through this research, Larson was able to make recommendations to the city officials on which classes to emphasize and further improve Mexican health.
Along with general research among Mexican residents, Larson created a health manual specific to Mexican teens preparing to serve religious missions. He described the mission-prep manual as “almost like Preach My Gospel, the prequel,” focusing on the main reasons Mexican youth were not planning to serve Latter-day Saint missions: being physically out of shape and not having the money. The five-chapter manual focuses on getting in shape, earning money, and becoming independent.
Larson and his colleagues were able to interact with these youth and young adults by attending different Church congregations every Sunday and attending religious Institute classes every weekday evening. “We even did focus groups with a couple of the [Church missionaries] in the area,” Larson says. “It was cool to see a lot of synergy between everyone.” The mission manual, titled Llamados a Servir, is published and available for Mexican youth to use. Larson has handed the diabetes manual to supervisors in the Mexico City area to complete.
Larson described his research as “the richest challenge” he has experienced, declaring it harder than any class test he has taken, but far more worth it. “I hope more people do what I did, search for things abroad,” Larson says. “And literally get a job in another country.”