Medicine Awarded Largest One-Time Grant by NIH for Diabetes Prevention

August 20, 2008

Richard L. Cameron
(478) 301-5500

MACON, Ga. -- The Mercer School of Medicine, which last year celebrated its 25th anniversary, has been awarded the largest one-time grant in the history of the school.  The National Institutes of Health will provide the Department of Family Medicine at the School of Medicine with $3.1 million to conduct a five-year study of the Church-Based Diabetes Prevention and Translation program.

The study, to take place in African-American churches in Macon and Hartford, Conn., will combine the efforts of the faith community, health and educational institutions. “The rate of diabetes in African Americans is among the highest in the country,” said Dr. John Boltri, a Mercer professor of family medicine who will serve as the principal investigator for the research team. “Diabetes is a leading cause of heart disease, blindness and kidney disease, accounting for more than 18 percent of all US medical costs.”

The CBDPT is a community-based program designed to prevent diabetes by partnering with churches to teach lifestyle improvement through healthy diet and physical activity. The goal is to decrease the burden of suffering and health disparities from diabetes in the African-American community.

“It’s hard to believe that there are now more than 20 million Americans with diabetes and 54 million with pre-diabetes,” said Dr. Boltri. “Diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate and much of the increase can be attributed to sedentary lifestyles and over consumption of food. It is well known that intensive lifestyle improvement, through increasing physical activity and reducing calorie intake, can result in up to a 58 percent reduction in the rate of developing diabetes. Projects like this one are necessary to help reverse the growing trend of increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States.”

Other members of the research team include co-investigators Paul Seale, M.D., and Monique Davis-Smith, M.D., of the Department of Family Medicine and Judith Fifield, Ph.D. Dr. Boltri will supervise the entire project and coordinate the study in the Macon churches, while Dr. Fifield, a nationally known investigator from the University of Connecticut-Hartford, will coordinate the study in the Hartford churches.

The project will translate the NIH Diabetes Prevention Program into a community setting, thereby meeting the Healthy People 2010 objective of reducing the incidence and economic burden of diabetes, Dr. Boltri said. “The church-based program is relatively brief and inexpensive, and suitable for widespread dissemination. Our previous collaborative interventions with Middle Georgia churches have resulted in significant and sustained reductions in blood sugar, weight and blood pressure,” he said.

Dr. Boltri said the project will contribute to a greater understanding of community-based health promotion for preventing diabetes complications. “This project is a great opportunity for collaboration between Mercer, the Medical Center of Central Georgia and the community to decrease diabetes complications in African Americans,” he said.

About Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon and Savannah):
Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. The School only accepts Georgia residents into its medical degree program. Students entering Mercer University School of Medicine will be graduated from a school that utilizes a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. In August 2008, the inaugural class of 30 students began study at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah at Mercer’s second full, four-year doctor of medicine program. The School also offers master’s degrees in public health, family therapy, family services and nurse anesthesia.

About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.

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