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Rutgers Grad Student Increases Awareness of Diabetes Risk Among Local South Asian Community

Sairaman Nagarajan Hopes to Educate Fellow South Asians to Eat Healthy and Avoid Diabetes
Rizvi and Nagarajan
Sairaman Nagarajan, right, with Ozair Rizvi, a student at New Jersey Medical School, created educational materials for the Shri Rutgers Today

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Sairaman Nagarajan, a graduate student at Rutgers School of Public Health is committed to educating the South Asian population about the risks associated with Type 2 Diabetes.

Nagarajan, who immigrated to New Jersey in 2012 with a medical degree from SRM University in India, said  he is in a unique position to effect change, according to Rutgers Today, the official media outlet of the state university.

Nagarajan is lated to graduate this fall with a degree in epidemiology.  As part of his work towards that degree, Nagarajan set out to study the varying viewpoints of the local South Asian population in a recent survey he conducted regarding the risks of unhealthy eating.

“Older people visit their health care providers, while younger people go to websites like the Mayo Clinic or WebMD to address health issues,” he says. “But when I told them about their risk for diabetes, I sensed some indifference.”

The survey was part of an outreach program he developed to educate the South Asian community about diabetes risk and preventive measures during a recent "Bridging the Gaps" Community Health Internship Program sponsored by the School of Public Health at the Shri Krishna Nidhi Foundation, an Hillsborough-based organization that promotes wellness among New Jersey’s South Asian population.

Along with fellow intern Ozair Rizvi, a South Asian Rutgers New Jersey Medical School student, Nagarajan surveyed a segment of the population and discovered that awareness of the risks of acquiring diabetes is increasing, albeit at a slow rate.

With insights gleaned from the survey, Nagarajan and Rizvi developed printed materials and toolkits for an education campaign.

The foundation will start this fall, targeting diabetes on three fronts: prevention, disease management and prevention of complications from long-term morbidity.

Nagarajan has decided to focus his efforts on programs that educate the parents of young children about the benefits of instilling and encouraging healthier eating habits with proper proportions of vegetables, fruits, proteins, carbohydrates and fat.

“Because I am a South Asian, they know I understand the significance of tradition. I’m not trying to change what they eat when I start this conversation,” he says.

“But education at the grass-roots level – starting with the children – can make a personal difference to every family.”