Getting people to increase physical activity and improve their diet is the most difficult task in diabetes prevention. We believe we must reach and educate children on diabetes and its prevention before their lifestyle habits are fully established.
That is why our school education model for Diabetes Awareness and Prevention, developed in partnership with HRIDAY, a youth NGO in India, is so important. The comprehensive program, run with trained teachers and peer leaders, includes classroom and school-based activities, as well as outreach efforts to the community. Support for developing the educational materials and teaching the children was obtained from Merck/MSD.
The program is being rolled out in six schools between June 2011 and April 2012 in Delhi, reaching nearly 2,000 children between the ages of 11 and 14, in 6th and 7th grades. The six schools participating in our program are : Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya, Swami Sivananda Memorial Secondary School, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Bharti Public School, Salwan Public School and Delhi Public School.
Much progress has been made in the last few months.
We have recruited teachers in each school to coordinate and teach the diabetes awareness and prevention program, who in turn selected 4 peer leaders per class. Peer leaders facilitate small group discussions, report students’ views to the class and lead activities.
The educational modules and materials used for the program were developed and pilot-tested.
Orientation workshops for teachers and peer leaders were conducted in September and October, where they received training kits with teacher guides and peer leader manuals among other materials. 29 teachers and 192 peer leaders were trained from the six schools during these workshops.
In addition, a baseline survey was conducted among the students in the program. Although almost 85% of children felt that it is essential to have a balanced diet, less than half of the students felt that Type 2 diabetes is preventable. And, more interestingly, more than 30% reported that they had no knowledge regarding the same question.
Classroom activities are currently in progress. An end-of-year survey will take place in February/March 2012 and results will be ready in April 2012.
We are looking for ways to expand the program to other schools in Delhi, and in different parts of India including Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.
We believe that our program will help children establish a lifelong respect for exercise and healthy eating.