Countering Diabetes with the Aid of a Heluna Health Dietitian

In 2020, feeling depressed and tired, Martha Rojas went to Angeles Community Health Center, a federally qualified health center (FQHC) serving low-income people in Los Angeles. With high blood sugar levels and weighing nearly 300 pounds, she was diagnosed with diabetes. Treated with prescription medications for two years, her condition did not improve. “I was sleeping all day, and that was making me depressed,” she says. In 2021, she was hospitalized due to uncontrolled diabetes, and in late 2022, her doctor suggested a new approach, recommending that she see a dietitian with Heluna Health’s Breastfeeding and Nutrition Services (BFNS).

Since 2019, BFNS has provided nutrition counseling to Angeles Community Health Center patients and those of other FQHCs in the Los Angeles area that do not have dietitians on staff. For diabetes patients, healthy eating is critical, since eating sweets can dangerously raise their blood glucose levels, which can lead to serious health complications. Martha was assigned to Jorge Bazan, a registered dietitian and a supervisor with Heluna Health’s Women, Infants, and Children (PHFE WIC) program. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their meetings were held monthly by phone.

“First, Jorge told me to measure the food I was eating and write down how many snacks and meals I would have in a day,” says Martha. “I learned that I needed to have more willpower.” A former softball star in high school, Martha found that she was good at meeting challenges. Each month, Bazan would introduce a few more tasks. With his encouragement, she cut her excessive consumption of Pepsi and mangoes and added leafy greens to her diet. He also inspired her to exercise. She attends physical therapy sessions weekly and uses a stationary bicycle at home every other day. Bazan is hoping she will soon start exercising daily.

Over a year with Bazan, Martha’s blood sugar levels have dropped dramatically, into the pre-diabetic range. She has lost 50 pounds, and she has significantly reduced the dosage and frequency of her diabetes medications. “I needed to help myself, but I couldn’t do it alone,” she says. “Jorge goes above and beyond. It’s good to have someone like him, because not all clinics offer dietitians. Whoever needs it, I really recommend it, because you have someone who cares for you, who is rooting you on.”

For more information on BFNS contact Sagrario Nielsen, MS, RDN, at or (626) 856-6650, ext. 322