Mercer School of Medicine Awarded Largest One-time Grant by NIH to Study Community-Based Diabetes Prevention

The 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 U.S. 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, M.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.

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