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The Unorthodox Who Are: Using Poetry To Fight Childhood Diabetes

How do you get teens to care about type 2 diabetes? The disease strikes children and teens in epidemic proportions, particularly in low-income communities and among people of color. “Shaming and blaming” won’t get kids off the couch or get them to stop drinking sugary sodas. But what about slam poetry? Rap music? Or short, provocative videos? As part of The Bigger Picture campaign, Bay Area teens use their creative juices and their own voices to change the conversation about type 2 diabetes. Dean Schillinger, MD, resident alumnus and founder of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations (CVP) in 2006, initiated the innovative collaboration between arts organization Youth Speaks and the CVP to mobilize youth, foster policy change, and end type 2 diabetes in young people. The effort has won national awards, received more than 1.5 million video views on YouTube, and reached more than 5,000 students in Bay Area high schools to date. “We know that many policies affect the environments where people live and work and play,” says current CVP director Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD ’94, MD ’99, MAS ’04, “and these ultimately affect health, especially in children.” A key campaign goal is to remove the personal stigma from diabetes and obesity and raise kids’ awareness about the social and environmental pressures – like overabundant sugary foods, lack of healthy food options, and targeted marketing techniques – that contribute to those conditions in their neighborhoods. Bibbins-Domingo and her team at CVP also work closely with communities to help marginalized populations access services that are crucial for good health. They develop tools to help individuals with limited literacy skills navigate the complex health care system safely and effectively. They seek creative solutions for homeless people whose circumstances make it nearly impossible for them to manage their health needs. They develop innovative programs in partnership with others to increase access to healthy food. “Ideally, we would like to prevent disease before it starts,” says Bibbins-Domingo, adding that she looks forward to the day when there are no new cases of type 2 diabetes in Bay Area young people. The films, music, and poetry created by kids for kids – art that also resonates with adults who shape our policies – may be powerful agents of change for that future day. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo is the Lee Goldman, MD, Professor of Medicine.   Read Source »