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Community Health Promotion: Reaching Beyond The Clinic

There's a growing role for PTs and PTAs in addressing preventable illness

When it came to choosing a dissertation subject for her doctorate in health promotion and wellness, Rupal Patel, PT, PhD, targeted a field about which she's passionate—diabetes prevention—and an understudied population—Asian Indians in the United States.

Type 2 diabetes is the fifth-leading cause of death among Asian Americans, and Asian Indians have the highest prevalence of it within that population. According to the American Community Survey, from 2000 to 2010 the Asian Indian population in the United States grew by 67.6% (3.2 million people).

Asian Indians who immigrate to Western countries are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes for reasons linked to the metabolic impact of a westernized diet and tissue resistance to insulin.1-4 So, Patel, herself of Asian Indian descent, set out to effect change in her own backyard—reaching out to 1 of the largest Hindu temples in the Houston, Texas, area.

She developed a 12-week group-based lifestyle-modification program to reduce diabetes risk factors. It included sessions on physical activity and diet behaviors, while also seeking to debunk cultural myths with which she was all too familiar—such as the belief among many

Asian Indians that "physical activity that makes you breathe hard is harmful to your heart." As participants gained knowledge and confidence, they began walking fast or jogging—and feeling energized rather than scared.

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