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Engaging the Community: Spreading Awareness about Diabetes and Asthma at Science Night

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Community Outreach | May 17, 2015

“Someone once told me that the first steps in teaching are meeting people where they are and then bringing them to their next understanding,” said Dr. Michael Lichtenstein, professor in the School of Medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Dr. Lichtenstein joined several volunteers at Robert L. Vale Middle School’s 2nd Annual Science Extravaganza to help spread awareness about the rising rates of diabetes and asthma in South Texas.

According to the South Texas Diabetes Initiative, the prevalence of adult diabetes is more than 20 percent higher in South Texas than the entire state of Texas.

May is also Asthma Awareness Month. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 1 in 11 children have asthma. It also causes 3 in 5 people living with asthma to limit their physical activity or miss days of school and work.

“The goal of the event was to help increase people’s awareness of science in everyday life,” said Rosemary Riggs, the educational development specialist at Teacher Enrichment Initiatives.

“The kids have been very curious and asking good questions especially about things they’ve never seen before like internal body parts,” she said.

In addition to the display of internal body parts, graduate students and postdocs from TeenMOB (Trainees Meeting Outside the Box) led the “Starburst Activity,” which modeled the interaction in the cell between blood glucose and insulin for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

“I think the activities helped students see the connection between the brain and the heart and the brain and the lungs. In school, you tend to learn about organs as an individual entity but this helps them see how they connect,” said Erin Sybouts, a graduate student in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program.

Megan Borror, a postdoctoral fellow at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, said that it’s important for students to know this information now.

“Diabetes and asthma is something they can prevent now,” said Borror. “It’s prevalent in the community so the more they are exposed to information about it, the better choices they can make.” 

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