By Nalini Saligram, Founder and CEO of Arogya World
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic lung disease — are one of the 21st century’s greatest health and development challenges, and have become the leading cause of death in most regions of the world. I founded Arogya World 7 years ago to do something about this.
Since then, together with like-minded people and like-minded organizations, we’ve implemented innovative programs in India that take prevention to people where they live, work and learn. These programs have been proven to be effective in helping children and adults change behavior and lead healthier lives — as well as share what they’ve learned with friends and family.
I am passionate about this work, and encouraged by the progress we have made. Now we’re ready to bring our multi-pronged community approaches to South Asians living in the United States. As a community, we are more susceptible to diabetes and other NCDs — research has shown that South Asians in the U.S. have 4 times the risk of diabetes when compared to Caucasians. Finding out what prevention approaches will work to reduce that risk is very important.
Here is an outline of our plan to get started in Chicago:
1. First, we want to conduct an effectiveness study of our mDiabetes and Digital Heart Health text messages in bringing about behavior change among South Asians in Chicago. In India, our mDiabetes text messages have been shown to be effective, with 15% more people making positive health behavior changes.
2. We are looking at implementing lifestyle coach-led behavior change sessions for South Asians in Chicago. This methodology, based on the landmark clinical trial Diabetes Prevention Program and offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Emory University, has been shown to be very effective.
3. Finally, we want to promote healthy cooking in Chicago. A healthy diet is so important and a key element in preventing chronic disease.
We are lining up partners and sponsors to help us implement these. And, once we have success in our Chicago pilot, we hope to expand further — including in California, where we recently set up a Working Group to advise us on future programs and activities.
I am excited about the possibilities! But we can’t do this alone. We need your help and support as we raise funds for our programs. Come to our Gala in Chicago on May 12, where we celebrate our supporters and partners — and welcome others into our community. This year, as in years past, our event promises to be a fun and elegant party with great food and wine and our most colorful Indian attire.
Join me and my wonderful friends and colleagues at the Chicago Cultural Center on May 12th to learn more and support our work! I hope to see you there.