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A movement to prevent spread of diabetes in rural population

By K. Raju

DINDIGUL, JULY 25. A diligently designed educational intervention programme, formulated by the Department of Home Science in Gandhigram Rural Institute, which translated findings of scientific research on diabetes prevention into simple know-how and do-so routines for rural population, proved as a successful movement in preventing spread of diabetes effectively and made drastic changes in the lifestyle and eating habits of diabetic and pre-diabetic patients.

A team, led by N. Kamalamma, Head, Department of Home Science, and Padmini Balagopal, a registered clinical nutritionist and certified diabetes educator from the US, in association with Ranjitha Mishra Assistant Professor, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Texas, A & M University, USA, worked together to implement the project christened as Diabetes Prevention Research Project with an aim of increasing an awareness of lifestyle changes that could prevent diabetes in vulnerable population.

Alamarathupatti in the Athoor union was identified to implement this pilot project, funded by the US-based American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to the Gandhigram Rural Institute.

In 2002, Ms. Padmini Balagopal and Dr. Kamalamma first organised an informal meeting with the local people and briefed them about the project and dangers of diabetes. A massive screening in and around Alamarathupatti helped them identify population group at risk for developing the disease and people with pre-diabetes.

After gaining full confidence of the locals, the team swung into action. Motivated young students of the GRI were hired on a stipend. A concurrent `train-the-trainer' programme was held for them to impart accurate and updated information effectively on diabetes and improved lifestyles that could prevent its onset.

Besides this core group, members and leaders of self-help groups were roped in. With data on local dietary habits, lifestyles and available resources collected through the initial pilot study, the intervention education programme was designed.

A `walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk' formula helped the team to create rapport and acquaintance with the locals. First, the importance of physical activity and the need for an active non-sedentary life style were stressed.

Besides, a periodical counselling and effective campaign helped them achieve the desired results.

With local diet, SHG leaders were trained to change the diet filled with fibre-rich food such as millets, whole grains, pulses and legumes. Wheat bran fibre was donated and recipe competitions were held, inviting the villagers to incorporate valuable fibre into their family diet.

The results were amazing. Many villagers reduced rice consumption and brought their sugar level under control.

Ms. Padmini Balagopal, also principal investigator of Diabetes Prevention Research Study, GRI, said that pre-diabetes was a silent disease. After two years of an intensive campaign, the people have started taking a proactive role in preventing the disease.

The GRI has planned to try the project in three other villages in other parts of the district shortly.

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