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Student group battles obesity, diabetes

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Student group battles obesity, diabetes

Josh Sigler

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Every year, Alabama and Mississippi struggle to determine which is the top state in the nation in obesity and diabetes. While the state is usually happy being in contention for number one in sports, this particular competition raised concern for Koushik Kasanagottu, a senior majoring in biology. Kasanagottu decided to form UA Diet in Spring 2012 to combat related issues.

The purpose of the group is to go into rural areas of the state and educate people on the leading causes of diabetes and obesity as well as ways to prevent them.

“Diabetes is highly preventable, but because people in these areas do not have easy access to the Internet or doctors, they are unable to educate themselves on the causes,” Kasanagottu said.

(See also: “Student group at forefront of diabetes awareness“)

Alex Morris, a junior majoring in pre-med and music performance and the director of events for the club, said one of the main reasons rates of obesity are so high in rural areas of Alabama is limited access to the Internet and professionals who could educate them.

“In many rural communities in Alabama, people have to drive two or three hours just to see a doctor at all,” Morris said.

The project was originally started by a group of medical students from The University of Alabama at Birmingham who were unable to devote more time to the project and handed it on to Kasanagottu. Shortly thereafter, Kasanagottu asked Austin Hardaway, a senior majoring in biology and Spanish, if he would want to get involved, and the group was formed.

“Almost every case of type 2 diabetes can be treated by a lifestyle change, and these changes can be taught by students,” Hardaway said. “I feel like there is a disconnect between UA and these communities, but they need our help.”

(See also: “NIH funds study to determine if vitamin D prevents type 2 diabetes“)

Hardaway said the main things the group teaches during its sessions are what diabetes is, what sorts of diets and exercises can help prevent it and how to manage stress.

“The more you’re stressed, the longer it takes your body to recover from anything,” Hardaway said. “As far as exercise, instead of telling them what exercises to do, I like to ask some of the reasons why they don’t have time to exercise, and then it is just a matter of problem solving.”

Personal interactions are very important to members of the group, who try to do everything they can to work with the people they are trying to reach.

“Our greatest strength is that we go to them rather than making them come to us,” Kasanagottu said.

Some events the group has done in the past include information sessions in the Ferguson Student Center and on the Quad. Last year, they were able to get Denny Chimes illuminated in blue, the color for diabetes awareness. The goal for the group moving forward is to be able to have at least two education sessions per month, with each session reaching at least 30 attendees.

Anyone who is interested in health education is welcome to get involved with the group. For those wanting to get more involved, the group’s website is alabamadiet.org. An application form can be found there as well.

(See also: “Facilities need to reflect UA growth“)

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Student group battles obesity, diabetes