Purpose To raise awareness surrounding type 2 diabetes and encourage its prevention among youth in Ferndale, Washington, a community project was designed describing how a combination of proper nutrition and daily physical activity promotes health and prevents development of this chronic illness.
Methods Three separate approaches (class lessons, handout, brochure) aimed to promote understanding regarding the significance of type 2 diabetes and its prevention. Two 8th grade classes at the local middle school completed an informal survey to assess current eating and exercise habits, as well as knowledge about type 2 diabetes. Survey responses and additional information from a MEDLINE literature search and interviews with local health care providers helped to develop a follow-up interactive class lesson discussing the prevalence, causes, and consequences of type 2 diabetes and how both proper nutrition and daily activity promote prevention. Students received a handout with specific ideas for healthy lifestyle choices. A prevention brochure targeting youth was distributed to Vista Middle School, the Ferndale Family Medical Center, and the Ferndale Boys & Girls Club.
Results High prevalence of type 2 diabetes in patients at the Ferndale Medical Center, as well as reported poor eating and exercise habits and lack of knowledge concerning type 2 diabetes among youth, were identified as areas needing increased awareness and education. Informative materials designed for and presented to the community aimed to encourage healthy behavior changes in adolescents.
Conclusion Observation of a community, open communication involving local health care professionals and community members, and a review of literature can help to elicit a specific community concern. Increasing community awareness by empowering youth builds a foundation for lifestyle changes that can lead to long-term community solutions as this age group seeks autonomy in building personal lifestyle patterns.
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