Taylor University faculty and students have partnered with Marion General Hospital, Upland Health and Diagnostic Center, and local physicians to launch a diabetes prevention program aimed at increasing the health and quality of life in two of the State of Indiana’s most unhealthy counties.
The program is called InVitATION (Inspiring Vitality and Transformation in our Neighborhood), and stems from a goal to provide Taylor students with opportunities to participate in a solution to community health needs.
Grant and Blackford Counties in Indiana are among the unhealthiest in the State of Indiana, said Dr. Erik Hayes, Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Taylor, and in a greater sense, they are a microcosm of a significantly larger issue. “At least 80 percent of chronic disease in this country could go away if people ate well, lived well, maintained healthy body weight, and didn’t smoke,” he said. “(As you consider) the debate about Medicare for all—the truth is that all of that debate would go away if we had a healthier society.”
Hayes, Dr. Diane Dungan, Associate Professor of Psychology at Taylor, hospital staff, and local physicians and dieticians developed InVitATION as a way to approach the problem with solutions that go beyond diet and exercise. Also included is studies of bloodwork, medication dosages, fall risk assessment, muscle strength, and endurance.
Dungan said success in the program would also be measured in factors that include weight loss, a healthier lifestyle and eating habits, a better outlook on eating and exercise, and more.
“We look at stress relief/management, goal setting and achievement, and sleep,” she said. “We have people who are reducing their risk of falls, are feeling more energetic, and are more engaged in life. We have people who are not losing weight, but are prioritizing movement over being sedentary. Weight loss is one marker of success, but we are also looking at others.”
Thirty Taylor students are participating in the program. As local physicians refer their patients to the program, the students meet with them at the Upland Health and Diagnostic Center. In just a few months, the number of people participating in the program has climbed from just a handful to more than 50.
“Most programs training physicians don’t learn about preventative medicine,” Hayes said. “This could be a unique program at Taylor—it would shape the kind of practitioners our students are going to be in the future. We wanted to create a program that prepares our students, has an impact on the community, it has research.
“Healthcare is a big deal in this country and I believe firmly that a Christian liberal arts college should be in this field,” Hayes added. “We should be involved in the hurting places in this world and right now chronic disease is a hurting place in this world and we can do something about it.”