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EFE News Service

Rita Moreno Will Be Spokeswoman For Diabetes Awareness Campaign

By Ruth E. Hernandez Beltran

June 5, 2003
Copyright © 2003 EFE News Service. All rights reserved. 

New York, Jun 4 (EFE).-Internationally acclaimed actress Rita Moreno has been chosen as the spokeswoman for a national awareness campaign about diabetes and heart disease aimed at Hispanics, who are twice as likely to become diabetics than Anglos.

"When the association contacted me for this project, I immediately told them yes, because I lost my mother to complications from diabetes and a sister-in-law who was very dear to me," said Moreno, winner of all four of the most prestigious awards in show business, the Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy.

Moreno is the first Hispanic spokeswoman to participate in the campaign - organized by the American Heart Association - which will be conducted in English and Spanish throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

"Many people don't understand that this disease has so many complications and leads to other diseases," said Moreno, who is the only Puerto Rican actress to win an Oscar. The award was bestowed for her performance as Anita in "West Side Story."

"My mother lost part of her leg as a result of the disease," Moreno told EFE.

The campaign seeks to raise awareness about preventive measures to avoid diabetes, which caused some 210,000 U.S. deaths in 2000 alone.

According to the American Heart Association, 10.2 percent of U.S. Hispanics have been diagnosed with diabetes and many more are unaware they suffer from the disease.

Since the campaign was launched in 2001, more than 8,000 people with Type 2 diabetes have joined the program, which provides toll-free number 1-800-242-8721 for information in Spanish, as well as a website at

Statistics demonstrate that between 90 percent and 95 percent of diabetics suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which is more prevalent among those who are 45 or older, overweight, Hispanic, African-American, Native American or from the Pacific Islands.

"The Hispanic community has an enormous problem ... 90 percent of the men and women who are obese have diabetes," said Moreno.

The campaign underscores the importance of diet and exercise to control diabetes in light of a survey taken by the association that found more than 92 percent of Hispanics who suffer from the disease are aware of this fact but fail to eat healthy meals and stay fit.

Moreno said she is committed to bringing this educational message to the Hispanic community in Spanish, so its members will know they can get help to cope with the disease.

"I bring feeling and passion to this campaign," she said.

Moreno is scheduled to visit Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Antonio to educate Hispanics about diabetes, along with Cuban-born cardiologist Jorge Plutzky.

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