Utah State University’s newly-established Center for Human Nutrition Studies was awarded its first grant. The center, a contract research organization at the university, has already begun work to design and conduct clinical studies as part of a value generating system within USU.
Financed by the Utah Department of Health and the Diabetes Prevention and Control Program, the grant was given to Senior Dietitian Sheryl Aguilar on behalf of her proposed diabetes and pre-diabetes programs for seniors 60 years or older.
“It’s a two-prong program,” Aguilar said. “The first is prevention to help seniors stay healthy and avoid getting diabetes. The second is intervention to help seniors manage their pre-diabetes and diabetes. We are looking to target the seniors at risk for diabetes and those with it already.”
Aguilar will collaborate with USU dietetic students working on practicum hours, offering the education courses at the Cache County Senior Center for seniors, including those with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
According to the DPCP, diabetes is a growing problem — more than 120,000 Utah adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and approximately 79 million adults in the United States have pre-diabetes.
“Seniors are at high risk for developing pre-diabetes and diabetes.” Aguilar said.
In Cache County alone, approximately 20 percent of people older than 60 have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Another 20 percent have pre-diabetes or undiagnosed diabetes.
Starting in August 2012, the program will continuously cycle through eight weeks of nutrition and exercise courses followed up by four weeks of diabetes-specific education courses. The diabetes curriculum will use the evidenced-based program Healthy Interactions Conversation Maps, based on the 10 national standards for diabetes self-management education.
“This funding will allow for the creation of a program that will be self-sustaining,” Aguilar said. “The course curriculum will be developed, USU dietetic students will teach it and we’ll be able to help residents for years to come.”
Aguilar’s proposal called for increased access to sustainable self-management education for people with diabetes by establishing quarterly education sessions among the rural and/or low income senior populations in the Bear River Area Agency on Aging. It also called for increased access to sustainable, evidence-based interventions to prevent or delay onset of type 2 diabetes among seniors in that population with pre-diabetes.
After the first year, the Center for Human Nutrition Studies plans to expand the program to other senior centers in the Bear River AAA.
“Commercial Enterprises at Utah State University is working with the Center for Human Nutrition Research to elevate the profile of this center,” said David Clark, director of business development. “Our goal is to channel funding and research opportunities through the Center of Human Nutrition Studies and create a self-sustaining unit within the university portfolio that can have an impact on the marketplace both in and outside of Utah.”
The Center for Human Nutrition Studies at Utah State University provides the organizational structure and logistic support for research scientists with interests in conducting clinical studies with an emphasis on nutrition. The center, with a core staff consisting of experienced clinical researchers, community interventionist, research dietitian, clinic coordinator, laboratory research associate and support staff, coupled with an outstanding clinical facility and research kitchen, is designed to serve as a resource to Utah State University researchers in efforts to secure extramural research funding and industry contracts and partnerships. The Center also provides opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to gain experience in the design and conduct of human nutrition clinical studies. The center is managed by the USTAR Applied Nutrition Research Team in conjunction with the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science and under the administrative oversight of the College of Agriculture.
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