Addressing a recurring concern

Addressing a recurring concern

When Koushik Prudvi, 21, moved from the town Mancherial in Adilabad District of Telangana, India, to USA, diabetes followed him. The disease had been...

A youth sets up a community outreach programme to help diabetics

When Koushik Prudvi, 21, moved from the town Mancherial in Adilabad District of Telangana, India, to USA, diabetes followed him. The disease had been an integral pa--rt of his life. As a child, he’d seen his grandparents frequently being administered insulin shots.

“Three out of four of them have diabetes, which increased the likelihood of my parents and me inheriting it”, says Koushik, who thought he’d left diabetes behind in India when he moved to Chicago at the age of eight. Infact, what attracted him to medicine, in part, were childhood memories that he just couldn’t leave behind.

Koushik, who started his medical school at University of Alabama, Birmingham(UAB) in July 2014, discovered during his internship that one out of every nine Alabamians suffered from diabetes, a disorder that affects the young and old alike.

The disease prevents the cells in the body from getting the necessary amount of glucose, which adversely affects the patient. “I found that statistic staggering”, he says.Koushik grabbed the first opportunity he could get to found the Diabetes Education Team(DIET) at UAB, a community outreach program, with the help of other students.

The student organisation worked in Tuscaloosa, Greene, Pickens, Perry and Hale counties, spreading awareness on diabetes and has logged more than 600 service hours over the past two years,.

Koushik and the organisation’s 13 other officers, along with a core group of about 60 student volunteers, conducted a series of information sessions, during which they discussed diet, stress management, wound care and exercise.

The group is advised by Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster, a physician who serves as deputy director of UA’s Rural Health Institute and an assistant professor of community rural medicine; and Dr. Rebecca Kelly, director of UA’s Health, Promotion and Wellness program.

“It’s more of a conversation,” Koushik says, talking of the sessions. “We just help facilitate the discussion. We would like for the patients to interact more. After all, they know more about their community than we do. The sessions are very interactive.

40 per cent of the program is dedicated to just listening to the participants. It alleviates their stress levels and in turn boosts their health.”Koushik says there are multiple factors why the state’s Black Belt area, an impoverished area in Central Alabama named for its rich, dark soil, faces high-levels of diabetes.

Shortage of financial resources, information, access to healthy food, and interstate access are all factors that contribute to the concentration of diabetes in these areas. “As students, we decided education is something we can help with.

We can only provide materials and resources, but we can’t really give out money or make sure there is a supermarket built close by.” The students also partner with community organisations to offer health screenings where nurses provide blood pressure and glucose monitoring, and counseling is made available.

The need is evident. “Greene County, for example, has a 20 to 25 per cent diabetes rate,” Koushik says. “The national average is about eight per cent. Greene County has the highest percentage of obesity in the country, for counties.”

The students have also worked to raise diabetes awareness among the campus community, arranging for special events like the annual World Diabetes Awareness days. Koushik has no plans to leave community health care behind just because his UA experience is complete. On acquiring of his medical degree, he expects to work in primary care/internal medicine.

“I don’t want to just practice,” Koushik says. “I want to work in underserved areas and with organisations to develop projects and improve the health of communities. It’s kind of hard to do that as a specialist.”The author is the Assistant Director of Media Relations at University of Alabama, USA.

By Chris Bryant

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