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India’s Diabetes Heroes In Spotlight on International Women’s Day

Millwood, VA, March 8, 2011

India’s stunning economic emergence has lifted millions out of poverty, but its achievement has come with a hidden cost – an increasingly sedentary lifestyle for the new middle classes that has left 50 million people with diabetes.

Project HOPE, an international health education and humanitarian aid organization is training 3,000 Diabetes Educators and is marking International Women’s Day on March 8 with an appeal to Indian women to take action against this growing scourge.

India Diabetes Educator Project

The International Diabetes Federation says one in eight Indians either has or is at risk of diabetes. In an attempt to educate communities about the illness, Project HOPE created the India Diabetes Educator Project (IDEP) in 2007, the first ever large-scale initiative to train and educate India’s health care professionals nationwide about diabetes. The program is designed to reduce deaths from diabetes and to combat the disease’s rapid growth.

More than 1300 IDEP graduates are teaching patients to adopt a diet designed to reduce the effects of diabetes and to understand the cardiovascular risks associated with the disease. IDEP-trained health care professionals routinely consult with their patients' doctors about new anti-diabetic drugs and insulin therapy.

“IDEP aims to train 3,000 health care professionals by the end of the year, including nurses, nutritionists and physical therapists. We, at Project HOPE, are appealing to women to educate and empower themselves to understand the burden of diabetes,” said Dr. Sonia Kakar, Project HOPE’s program manager in India.

Experts say the high incidence of diabetes in India is due to limited physical activity, obesity, stress and unhealthy diets. The growing affluence of the professional class has triggered unhealthy eating habits, whilst disadvantaged communities are at risk from a diet low in essential protein. It is also believed that South Asians are genetically predisposed to diabetes.

Diabetes educator, Sharavathy Mysore Krishamurthy, has been a health care professional for twenty years and says the IDEP workshops gave her the skills to really make a difference for patients of all ages.

“My IDEP training from Project HOPE gave me the confidence to advise a patient as young as 12 or an 81-year-old grandmother who needed support with her diabetes condition. I am especially proud that I am able to address the psychological needs of patients and not just their physical concerns,” said Ms. Sharavathy.

The Project HOPE diabetes educator training program is the only one of its kind to receive recognition from the International Diabetes Federation. IDEP graduate and Diabetes Educator, Paraksha Rao, says IDEP goes beyond theory and teaches health care workers practical ways to help patients change their behavior in a positive way. She says the growing prevalence of juvenile diabetes is a huge concern in India.

“I’m very concerned when I see obese children because it shows society’s basic understanding of good healthy habits is just not there. If we educate the entire family to be active, to modify their diet and entire lifestyle, I think then we can improve people’s lives and it’s high time we start doing it,” said Ms. Rao.

The challenge in India, she said, is for women like her to educate other women on how to protect their families from the burden of diabetes in a society eager for economic wealth and where leisure time often involves little or no physical activity.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), namely diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory diseases cause 60% of all deaths worldwide, of which 18 million are women. Experts say NCDs are preventable and yet represent the biggest threat to women's health, especially in the developing world, and the costs to communities are skyrocketing in terms of heath care and lost productivity. The United Nations has identified NCDs as a global risk and major threat to the world economy and will host a two-day summit on NCDs in New York on September 19-20 to address this global epidemic.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world.

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 35 countries across five continents. 

Media Contact: Geraldine Carroll (540) 257-3746 gcarroll@projecthope.org

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