AMERICUS, Ga. (June 20, 2012)—Thanks to a generous $65,000 grant from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) BRIDGES program, Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) will help implement an innovative campaign promoting healthy lifestyles to residents of the South Pacific living with diabetes. 

Community Theater, diabetes education join forces in innovative grant funded to Georgia Southwestern professor

AMERICUS, Ga. (June 20, 2012)—Thanks to a generous $65,000 grant from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) BRIDGES program, Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) will help implement an innovative campaign promoting healthy lifestyles to residents of the South Pacific living with diabetes. BRIDGES is an acronym for "Bringing Research in Diabetes to Global Environments and Systems," and it is supported by an education grant from Lilly Diabetes.

Philip Szmedra, Ph.D., GSW professor of economics, leads a research group that submitted the grant proposal entitled “Using Community Theater to Promote Diabetes Education and Prevention in Fiji”. Cathy Rozmus, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and Anand Chand, Ph.D., of the University of the South Pacific, are “co-investigators” on the project. Research done by the group during the last seven years has shown that people in the South Pacific being treated for diabetes pay little attention to traditional public health education messaging.

“We have learned through our earlier surveys conducted in hospitals and clinics treating diabetic outpatients in Fiji, Samoa, Kiribati, and Nauru that much of the traditional public health information methods such as brochures and posters are untouched,” Szmedra said. “This is partly because a portion of the population is illiterate, but more importantly, the methods of information delivery are not very compelling.

“When Ministry of Health officers visit towns and villages to speak to groups of people either affected by diabetes or to promote healthy lifestyles in the general population, the events are treated more as a social gathering rather than as a venue to re-consider an unhealthy way of living,” added Szmedra. “In other regions of the world Community Theater has shown to be an effective way to internalize the healthy lifestyle message.”

Local playwright, Tom DeTitta, will write a series of short skits using professional actors to dramatize practical approaches in dealing with illness and best methods to prevent falling victim to diabetes. These professionals will audition local community members to establish a network of Community Theater cells in Fiji to ensure sustainability of the program.

The IDF is engaged in action to tackle diabetes from programs at the community level to worldwide awareness and advocacy initiatives. A unique approach to diabetes education using Community Theater, aims to present healthy living in a way that engages natives to the South Pacific.

“The countries in which we have worked have some of the highest diabetes incidence in the world,” said Szmedra. “Forty percent of the adult population of Nauru is diabetic; 25 percent in Fiji; 26 percent in Samoa. By comparison, about seven percent of the adult population in the U.S. is diabetic. We hope that our project will be able to help arrest the epidemic of diabetes that afflicts this seemingly idyllic region of the world.”

This project will begin in December 2012 and run through January 2015. For additional information, please contact Szmedra at (229) 931-2122.

 - GSW -