On Education (Pt. 1: Illiteracy)

With the curiosity of a child, Venky’s eyes roamed the waiting room, focusing on a plaque in front of the doctor’s office. Unfortunately, his attempts at reading it failed.

Venky faces pre-diabetes, and I observed a diabetologist converse with him and his mother (in Tamil) about healthy lifestyle modifications (diet and exercise) to prevent diabetes. In the process, I learned how Venky’s current lifestyle makes it really difficult for him to follow through with the doctor’s recommendations. This 11-year old boy attends a gurukulam (a type of boarding school), where he only learns Sanskrit, a sacred Indian language. All lessons are given orally, with math, science, and English being out of question. When the doctor asked about playtime, Venky’s eyes widened and he shook his hands. “No, we are beaten if not studying!”

Venky is one of many children in India who face barriers to healthy living, which stem from illiteracy, inadequate physical activity, and traditional thought. Without being able to read and write, people like Venky will be incapable of learning from many intervention strategies and health promotion programs, such as pamphlets, posters, and presentations.

2015-06-23 13.19.00

Pamphlet on physical exercise (with pictures and text)

I often come across health-promoting signs and posters in the Tamil language. Without pictures or an English translation, it is very difficult for myself to understand its message! How will people reduce saturated fat intake and consume proper amounts of protein, without being able to read nutrition labels and understand MyPlate guidelines? Even with verbal explanations (which often slip the mind), I believe people who are illiterate will have great difficulty in learning to stay healthy.

2015-06-23 13.18.54

Pamphlet on nutrition and healthy eating

So why exactly are these children not going to school? Are they just not interested, or is there an underlying reason?

A few weeks ago I stopped by a small roadside shop to buy a bottle of water. (Side note: Usually my water comes from supermarket bottles, but I was traveling and had run out. I’ve really come to appreciate the luxury of clean drinking water coming from my own tap. Some days I forget to buy water before coming home- having to again venture into the heat just to buy water is a struggle). Anyways, there seemed to be no one at the counter, so I looked around when a voice came from down below. A child, about Venky’s age, was asking what I wanted.

"Balance is the key to healthy living"

“Balance is the key to healthy eating”

Child labor is widely present in India, and most common in poverty-stricken households. And without receiving any proper education, it is really difficult for these families to rise from their financial burdens and lead fulfilling lives. If there was a law prohibiting child labor in India, I would be all for it. However, it would also impose a burden on families who rely on multiple working members to feed each other.

Boy selling us shoe covers to wear in Agra (cannot enter the Taj Mahal without them)

Boy selling us shoe covers to wear in Agra (cannot enter the Taj Mahal without them)

So I would say the moral of this story, is that improving the health of populations is not only dependent on having knowledgeable healthcare providers; it is also important for people receiving healthcare to be capable of doing so. In illiterate populations from lower socioeconomic status, for example, it may be more useful to begin with teaching them how to read and write, before implementing higher-level health literacy programs. Or, scaling down these programs to verbal explanations, and tailoring them to the population of interest, is also a feasible approach.

Whatever it may be, this experience with Venky and others like him has really shown me the importance of looking past the physical body of a patient, and understanding the person in the context of their own culture and lifestyle. This is a theme that seems to repeats itself, whichever population you are working with, in any location and with all health problems.

And finally, I envision a world where all children can go to schoolregardless of their race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. In my opinion, learning to read and write, understanding the laws of nature, and history of our past is of utmost importance—in not only promoting the well-being of our world’s population, but also creating progress in our society.

My next blog post will address another issue concerning education in India: a factory of Engineers.

See you next time!

Pranati

The Next Step

In my previous blog post, I discussed my experience observing a screening for diabetes in children and adolescents living in small colonies in Chennai. We performed an OGTT (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test), delivered a lifestyle questionnaire, and sent blood samples back to the clinic for testing.

Based on the results, we invite those at risk or with diabetes to Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Centre for further testing and consultation with a diabetologist. The screening, testing, and consultation are free of charge for the research participant, making it easily accessible and affordable.

2015-06-09 09.55.48

The Ultrasound Room

On the first day, we had a family of three children (or rather, young adults), for check-up. We first take them to the ultrasound technician, who assesses for fatty liver, polycystic ovaries, and other complications that can lead to diabetes.

Side Note: Above the ultrasound room, there was a large dark blue sign, which basically prohibited technicians from identifying the gender of a fetus while in the womb. I was slightly surprised by this law, and then realized it reflects India’s long history of patriarchy and acts to prevent sex-selective abortion.

After waiting (for a really long time, standing up, miserable, really hot), the diabetologist was finally ready to see our research participants.

2015-06-09 11.56.46All three young adults had high cholesterol level and some had fatty liver, and the doctor “prescribed” them with diet and exercise. They were slightly confused, as people often look for some medicine that can treat their disease or disorder. However, after taking the family to see the nutritionist, they began to understand more about health eating and the importance of physical activity alongside. Since their mother is the one who cooks all their food, she was the center of attention for this portion; however, everyone else was still encouraged to participate and learn about nutrition.

Diet Cabin (to meet the nutritionist)

Diet Cabin (to meet the nutritionist)

The way in which nutritionists and doctors communicate with their patients at Dr. Mohan’s is really tailored towards the Indian lifestyle. These professionals understand the built environment of their patients, such as their access to food and other resources for leading healthy lifestyles. For example, Dr. Mohan’s centre has developed High Fiber White Rice. This reflects the high glycemic index (means the sugar gets into your blood faster) of regular white rice, and the reluctance of Indians to eat the more fibrous brown rice (due to culture, taste, and appearance preferences). High Fiber means the rice will keep you full longer, and digest your meal better.

2015-06-23 13.16.22

Dr. Mohan’s Products, including High Fiber White Rice

They also give suggestions for cooking Indian food in a healthy way; this is something very difficult to find in the United States, especially for Indian immigrants. As I mentioned before, my grandma suffers from diabetes, and she used to see a diabetes doctor who would give suggestions for healthy living in the context of an American lifestyle. In the US, we really have a need for physicians who are knowledgeable about different cultures and their respective lifestyles, and can provide treatment accordingly.

2015-06-09 11.08.36Today’s research participants will return next month for a follow-up. In the meanwhile, we will be bringing another batch of participants every week. This experience has shown me the slow-paced nature of research, and the importance of taking steps one at a time.

My next blog post, on education in India, will also draw from the lives of people I have met in my research and traveling experiences in Chennai. See you next time!!

Pranati

A Day on the Field

At the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, my team’s research project addresses the childhood obesity epidemic two public health problems in a two-phase structure. The name of the study is ORANGE: Obesity Reduction and Awareness and Screening for Noncommunicable Diseases through Group Education (they sure do love their acronyms!)

Phase 1 is a screener for diabetes risk factors in 2,000 randomly selected children from residential colonies in Chennai. Phase 2 of the project is a school-based group education program, teaching ~2,300 6th and 7th grade students about lifestyle modifications (diet and exercise) to prevent diabetes.

Recently I had the opportunity to go on a field visit to learn how this process is executed, first hand.

After a short (but bumpy) ride, my team arrived at one of the randomly selected colonies in Chennai for diabetes screening. It was a narrow lane only suitable for motorcycles, so we parked our car outside the gate. 4 blocks completely occupied each side, 4 floors each, and 4 homes on each floor. Estimating a 4 to 5 person family, my advisor told me 70 households (300 people) lived on this street.

The Colony

                               The Colony

We walked up three flights of uneven stairs and arrived at our first household. Most people kept their front doors open, staring at us. The colony was pretty well knit, so they knew we were outsiders. My advisor explained to neighbors we are from Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Clinic, and their facial expression shifted from that of confusion to a delighted acceptance.

So I forgot to mention, it’s about 7:30 AM right now on a Saturday but it feels like mid-afternoon. People are running around, catching water at the well, grocery shopping, throwing wet clothes on the clothesline, and preparing for the day. The sun also rises around 5:30 AM, so maybe that’s why people start their day much earlier than I do in the States.

The first door we knocked on was not so active. The lights were still off when a middle-aged man opened the door. After introducing us as research assistants from Dr. Mohan’s, he immediately welcomed us in and brought two plastic chairs for us to sit.

Side note on sitting: Indians here are very keen about sitting. If they ever see a guest standing up, they go out of their way to find a chair (or stool or other sitting material).

"Please, sit ma'am"

“Please, sit ma’am”

He told us to stay while he brought his wife and kids. (Yes! A time to observe their home and take some discreet pictures.)

The entryway opened to a square living room about 8 ft by 8 ft, with a few plastic chair/stools (no couches), a refrigerator, and one of those 90’s computers on a desk in the corner. The computer was covered with a cloth, which seemed to be an old nightgown. It’s pretty dusty around here, so the people really make sure to care for their belongings.

Household #1

Household #1

This living room had two other doors: one leading to a similar-sized bedroom, and the other leading to the kitchen (and balcony). The man, presumably the father, entered the bedroom to wake the children. The lights were off inside, but I could make out a few heads lying on the ground. At first, I thought they were having a sleepover of some sort, before realizing they did not own beds.

The father returned, asking us to come back later after the children wake. It did not surprise me they were not ready…people here tend to be on their own schedules, and often late. But I find some sort of peace in that. There is much leisure and less stress to be on time.

We continued to the second household, where everyone was awake, showered, and mom was already cooking lunch (or maybe breakfast). AT 8 AM. Wow. Their home was a cookie cutter model of the first, and the father offered us a seat after we introduced ourselves.

Our first task was to complete anthropometric measurements of both children. We take body measurements such as height, weight, BMI, and waist circumference, to assess for obesity prevalence in these children. Then, the lab technicians perform an OGTT (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test) for the participant. They draw blood while the participant is fasting (no food intake for 10 hours), and give them a sugar water drink (75 grams of glucose dissolved in water). After 1 hour, the technician draws the blood again, and sends both the fasting and the post-prandial blood samples to the lab for testing.

Drawing blood for the OGTT

Lab technician drawing blood for the OGTT

During the hour in-between drawing blood samples, my research advisor administers a questionnaire about the child’s lifestyle practices. Since they communicate mostly in Tamil, it was a little difficult for me to follow along. I hoped my three semesters of learning Hindi in college would help out, but many people in Chennai do not know Hindi! I was very surprised, because it is the national language of India.

Mehreen (my research adviser) administering the questionairre (in Tamil)

Mehreen (my grad student research adviser) administering the questionairre (in Tamil)

For the most part, today’s participants reported they generally do not play any sports or other physical activities. One boy mentioned swimming, but only once or twice…A YEAR! Another girl mentioned dance, but not so frequently. I wondered why….they are kids, and kids love to play. It is really important for their health, too. And when we asked about time spent watching TV, texting, or talking on the phone, their faces lit up with a smile. One boy even reported watching 4 hours of TV a day, and 10 hours on weekends—not including the time spent with other electronic devices!

More questionairre-ing

More questionairre-ing

As the questionnaire continued, she began to question about their daily habits in terms of transport and household chores. This is where the answer to my question lies. Most of the children either walk to school, or to and from a bus stop. Their part-time jobs involve heavy lifting and climbing stairs, and household chores like washing clothes and collecting water consumed their time. So perhaps they are getting their physical activity, in a different form than I would expect. Also their colony environment was not suitable or safe for playing outside, which could be another reason for not seeing “football” or “running” in their response. The questionnaire also involved a self-reported portion for food intake, which I could not observe.

Portion Tools (reflecting commonly used Indian plates, glasses, and vessels)

Portion Tools (reflecting commonly used Indian plates, glasses, and vessels)

2015-05-30 08.29.58Something else that was peculiar to me, is when we asked about family history regarding diabetes or high blood pressure, the children gave an obvious nod—as if we should have known.

After administering the questionnaire and taking the second blood sample, we made our way back to the first house. The children—or should I say, young adults—were awake. One was 18 and the other was 23. In most parts of India, children attend local colleges and live at home until they are married. This is useful in tracking participants for longitudinal studies such as ORANGE, which last over many years. Additionally, it reduces bias that can result from living away from home.

In this home, the mother offered my advisor and myself a cup of chai. If you’ve read my previous post, refusing food or drink when visiting other’s homes is considered disrespectful, and people tend to become upset. However, I had to refuse because my stomach has not been enjoying the buffalo milk here. At least I learned the phrase for “I’m sorry” in Tamil: Enna mannichudunga.

We did the same OGTT and questionnaire in this household, before making our way back to the office. On our way out, an elderly man stopped us to ask where we were from (and gave us chairs to sit, as always). While we were talking, a man and woman approached us. The man was wearing cargo shorts and a buttondown, while the wife was dressed in an elegant churdidar (a long dressy top and leggings). They both were wearing sunglasses, the man’s head focused on his silver iPhone and the woman’s eyes wandering the surroundings. It was obvious they did not live in this colony, like two shining pearls in the middle of colorful plastic beads. They asked the elderly man for the “address of so-and-so”. After giving directions to the best of his ability, he returned and exclaimed, “Address? There are no addresses here! We are all a community of blocks; there is A block, B block and C block.” I guess he does not like visitors.

2015-05-30 08.37.13So to wrap things up, it was very interesting to learn how the lives of people in this colony are very different from my own. I don’t have to worry about many things, like pumping water from the well, bringing in clothes from the balcony before it rains, or fearing for my safety on the streets. Moreover, it is eye opening to see how such starkly different lifestyles also affect our health, in relation to diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

2015-05-30 09.42.012015-05-30 09.32.03The blood samples we took today will be sent to the lab for testing, and the participants who screen for pre-diabetes or diabetes will be brought into Dr. Mohan’s Centre over the next few weeks. More on that next time!

Pranati

Breakfast & Birthdays

People at work usually greet me with a “Good… (insert time of day)”, followed by a “Have you had… (insert most recent meal)”.

At first I thought they were concerned whether I found good food in Chennai, so I respond “Yes”, and let them know I’ve settled in. It then became repetitious and they started greeting each other similarly- perhaps it is a custom. (I’ve never responded “No”, but they would probably flip if I did!)

So bottom line: make sure you remember your last meal, and be prepared to have a conversation about it!

On Breakfast

In the mornings, my co-workers/new friends Mridula, Mehreen, and Shruti gather to eat breakfast. They bring idly and sambar, and Mehreen sometimes has masala-flavored oats (which she despises). My breakfast usually consists of a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, with a side of orange juice. They were very intrigued by such a meal (I have heard Indians only eat bread when they are sick), and the Nutella caught on to them (GO NUTRITION!)

2015-06-01 13.39.29

nutella sandwiches for the gang

In college, breakfast is usually a granola bar on the go, in a rush, or in my 8 AM Monday mornings. The people in Chennai are much more relaxed, and don’t stress out about time much (evident by the numerous times I have been the only one “on-time”). They make it a point to have a set time for eating breakfast, and it is usually an entire meal that fills you up until lunch.

On Lunch

So at UNC I have lunch around 12. Sometimes at 11 or 1 to avoid the rush. In Chennai, I’ve come to realize that 1 PM is the standard time for lunch. Probably because of their heavy breakfasts, the hunger doesn’t set in until then.

And at lunch, like at breakfast, we all gather to eat. At first, I thought my co-workers were offering me spoons of their home-madelunch, because I was new to the area and living off PB &Nutella + Cafeteria food for the time being. Usually they bring some kind of rice dish, from Sambar rice (lentil soup + rice), pulihora (lemon rice), to curd (yogurt).

feeding something (guess what??)

feeding something (guess what??)

Later I realized this food-sharing thing is more of a daily tradition, each of us sharing spoons of our lunches with each other before beginning to eat our own. And if you don’t try their food, they will probably feel sad. I absolutely LOVE trying new things (especially food), so this wasn’t a problem and it became my favorite part of the day.

Side Note on eating other people’s cooking: If you are eating a meal at someone’s house, and don’t finish your plate or refuse seconds (or thirds, and fourths), they will probably feel sad. And even though the food was delicious and you argue that you are full, they may still suggest you do not like their cooking. I’ve learned this from multiple experiences and have now begun to stop taking it personally.

And more on sharing food…

On Birthdays

It started off with Dr.Anjana’s birthday. She is the Co-Managing Director of Dr. Mohan’s and Vice President of MDRF.

The office phone rang. Ring Ring. Ring Ring.

“Hello, TRD” (TRD stands for Translational Research Department)

“How many people are in this department?” Looks around “Thirteen, including the intern”.

“Oh cake? Wish her happy birthday from us”

Within an hour (around 10 AM), two boxes of individually packaged cakes arrived at our doorstep! It was pretty early for cake, but no one seemed to care much. It was, after all, Anjana mam’s birthday.
2015-05-20 11.16.07CAKE

Side Note: I am amazed by the respect I see here for others, especially our senior staff members. Their time is never wasted and you can sense this respect in the way they communicate. It’s also feels odd for me to call my advisors “Dr. Last Name”, because everyone else calls them by “First Name Mam/Sir”. It’s a little difficult to get the hang of that too.

2015-05-21 18.56.50

Gulab Jamun

So anyways, we got similar calls another two times. They started joking that we have 3, 4, or even 5 interns (more goodies for us!) Once was for a birthday next door (the treat: an Indian sweet called Gulab Jamun). The second time wasn’t a birthday, but we each received five packs of Oats & Fiber Marie Biscuits. They were extras from an intervention program that distributed these biscuits to children in schools, as an alternative to cookies and other unhealthy sweets. Morgan and I became creative and made Nutella/PB sandwiches out of them- Super Delish!

2015-05-25 11.11.14

And then, when Shruti’s brother did really well on his 12th class board exams (similar to our SAT or Final Exams) she bought a box of chocolate-apple pastries and distributed them to the team. These exams basically determine college acceptance- they don’t really look for well rounded-ness, and rely on being book-smart or having $$ (More on the education system here later…)

2015-05-25 14.41.14

excited shruti with sweets

I could keep going on this…when I gave a mini-presentation to my team, after the first two weeks of my research, I was requested to bring some sort of “celebratory munchies” and resorted to Oreo-like cookies supposedly made of milk.

So to conclude here… after celebrating (with sweets) three times in the same week, I start to wonder whether this tradition of celebrating everything and anything (and then going back to our desks and sitting) is slowly but surely impacting India’s health as well.

And putting celebratory sweets together with the “Have you had your (most recent meal)” greeting, heavy breakfasts, plus the sharing lunch tradition puts into perspective how eating behaviors are really integrated into the culture of India. That’s some food for thought. (Literally)

Ok final side note on food: Mridula and I love experimenting with food. Given my love of nutella and her love of Haldiram’s (a salty snack), she suggested putting them together on a slice of bread. Here is the final product. Please this is a judgement-free zone.

experimental nutella + salty indian snack on bread

nutella + salty indian snack on bread 

Cheers!

Pranati

Indian Subway FTW

Indian Subway FTW

Tour of Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialty Centre

Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialty Centre (DMDSC) is the first I have seen of its kind! A sister branch of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, this hospital provides the most comprehensive care for diabetes in India. They have 20 branches in India, of which 8 are in Chennai. Let’s go on a tour of my workplace, the main branch in Gopalapuram (GPM), Chennai.

Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialty Center

Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialty Center

STOP 1: Reception (Ground Floor)

Reception

Reception

Here, both new and current patients can check in. DMDSC sees about 100,000 patients a year, and I can assure you there is never a dull moment. The center is always lively, with patients coming in and out, dieticians running around, and doctors shuttling from place to place. I could definitely see myself working in a place like this.

Let’s move on. So at a normal hospital, you would sit in the waiting area, wait for the nurse to take you in, see the doctor, etc. Not at Dr. Mohan’s!

STOP 2: Diet Cabin (Ground Floor)

Diet Cabin

Diet Cabin

The first person a patient at DMDSC sees is…wait for it… a dietician! Many patients are confused, and are often looking for medicine that will fix all their problems. However, as I have emphasized, controlling our diet (alongside physical activity) is just as important as adhering to our pills.

STOP 3: Obesity & Weight Management Centre (Ground Floor)

Approximately 139 million people in India are obese– that is 11% of this country’s total population! Weight reduction in both diabetics and non-diabetics is important in controlling or preventing diabetes. At Dr. Mohan’s, a team of nutritionists, fitness trainers, clinical psychologists, and bariatric physicians work together to help motivated patients lose weight. They even have a gym equipped with cardio and weight equipment for patients (and staff!) to use. In extreme cases, bariatric surgeons may perform a Gastric Bypass to help with weight loss.

STOP 4: Diabetic Foot Care (Basement)

2015-06-09 11.10.51 2015-06-09 11.11.35 2015-06-09 11.11.40

Feet. Otherwise known as our walking organs, people with diabetes may have affected nerves (neuropathy) and a reduced blood supply to their feet. This can result in deformed feet, callus formation, or other infection, all of which Dr. Mohan’s can diagnose and treat. Even better- they have their own line of shoes, custom-made specially for diabetics!

STOP 4: Telemedicine with Chunampet (Basement)

telemedicine

Telemedicine is a field that I am personally interested in, because it breaks one of the greatest barriers to receiving proper healthcare: distance from the hospital! Dr. Mohan’s has a mobile van that travels to rural areas such as Chunampet, Chennai (where I will be visiting soon!) This van has a telemedicine unit set-up, where patients in rural areas can communicate with diabetes doctors at Dr. Mohan’s through video-chat platform such as Skype. At Dr. Mohan’s Hospital, there is a huge noise-free room set up with a TV and computer, just for this remote consultation. Pretty cool, and affordable too!

STOP 5: Canteen (First Floor)

2015-06-09 11.08.55

Yummmm food. My favorite stop of all🙂 Canteen is another word for cafeteria. They serve breakfast, morning chai/coffee, lunch, afternoon samosas/snacks and dinner. I’ve never been here late enough to see if they serve midnight snacks. The food is pretty good, too- or maybe I’m just not sick of it yet. canteenYou basically have two options: diabetic meal or non-diabetic meal. My first non-diabetic meal consisted of white rice, papad, a vegetable dish, a kidney bean dish, rasam, sambar, yogurt, spicy pickle, and salt. Phew! So much food in one plate.

The diabetic meal is beautiful, and really captures the essence of a healthy and balanced diet specialized for the Indian diabetic population. This low sodium and low fat meal includes steamed vegetables and yogurt with a special type of high-fiber white rice developed by Dr. Mohan’s (more on RICE later!)

STOP 6: Diabetes Laboratory (First Floor)

Blood & Urine. Not so yum as the canteen, but the 90+ tests performed at Dr. Mohan’s state-of-the-art laboratories provide quick results about markers indicating a persons diabetic condition.

It’s pretty cool, because I’ve learned about these different blood/urine markers such as HbA1c in my nutrition biochemistry classes. I’ve also used the same lab equipment (such as HPLC and ion-selective electrodes) in analytical chemistry, and its super exciting to see its application to diagnose and monitor diabetic patients.

STOP 7: Eye Clinic (First and Second Floor)

2015-06-09 11.10.45

1 in 5 people with diabetes in Chennai develop damage to their eyes, which can ultimately lead to blindness if left untreated. At Dr. Mohan’s Eye Clinic, opthamologists both detect and help care for these patients. While the best way to prevent further damage is by controlling diabetes, lasers are used in severe cases for treatment.

In addition to these services, Dr. Mohan’s also offers Diabetic Cardiac Care, Stress Management, Physiotherapy, Dental Care, Radiology, and Preventative Care. There’s also a library with every journal article on diabetes you could think of, and an auditorium for special events like staff yoga and school programs.

Dr. Mohan’s is definitely the most comprehensive specialty care hospital that I have ever seen. I admire their work with the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, and I am so excited to contribute to their mission “to advance diabetes care, prevention, and a cure worldwide”.

Well, that wraps up the tour of Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialty Centre- see you next time🙂

Greetings from Chennai!

I cannot believe it has almost been a month since I’ve landed in this southern part of heaven [India]. Who knew it took this long to get settled into a new city, half-way across the world? And why Chennai?

aerial viewLet me share a little about myself, first. I’m an Indian-American, placed at the center of a game of tug of war. Growing up in an Indian household [in the United States] has challenged me to balance two starkly different lifestyles. I’ve also learned how such unique ways of life affect our social, mental, and physical health.

grandmaI’ll give you an example. My grandmother has been fighting diabetes for over a decade, and her condition worsened after she moved to the United States- where she encountered unhealthy shifts in her diet and physical activity. In India, she could leave the house, visit friends, and go shopping. In Charlotte, her social ties are limited, and she is restricted to the confines of her neighborhood.

idfMany other Indians like my grandmother are suffering from chronic diseases, and the International Diabetes Federation even predicts over 100 million people in India will be diagnosed as diabetic by the year 2030! Recently, there has also been a surge in children who are developing diabetes due to unhealthy lifestyles.

So you ask…why Chennai? My ten-week stay in this urban city serves a two-fold purpose:

  • To learn how food, culture, and other lifestyle practices influence the rapidly escalating prevalence of diabetes in this urban city
  • To analyze the effectiveness of a school-based intervention in teaching Chennai’s youth about diabetes

utthapamI am so excited to collaborate with the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (which doubles as a Diabetes Hospital—more on this later). Away from work, I enjoy exploring Chennai, and integrating myself into their unique lifestyle- shopping, eating, visiting temples, drinking tea, practicing yoga, walking the beach, etc.

mdrfAlso, shout out to UNC’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the Taylor Honors Research Fellowship for supporting my journey this summer.

Thanks for reading my first blog post- we will catch up next time!🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.