Health survey seeks paid volunteers

By: By T.C. Hunter - [email protected]

RED SPRINGS — People living in and around Red Springs are being offered a chance to lose weight, improve their overall health and make a 100 bucks at the same time.

A research group based at the University of North Carolina is looking for 80 volunteers, ages 35 to 80, who live in or within 10 miles of Red Springs. Selected volunteers will participate in the Red Springs Healthy Lifestyle Project, said Catherine Rohweder, senior investigator with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Project organizers hope to learn community members’ preferences for intervention format, acceptability of the intervention, and feasibility of the intervention, all while helping participants improve their overall health and reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

Enrollment has begun and will continue through October. The program is eight weeks long for each participant. Each participant will be paid $40 for the first assessment, which will be used to establish a baseline, and paid $60 for the final assessment, during which progress toward health goals will be recorded.

“We call it an incentive,” Rohweder said.

During the project, participants will receive information on diet, exercise and resources available to help them improve their health and maintain a healthier lifestyle. There will be no medical procedures, such as blood tests.

“This is not a medical intervention,” Rohweder said. “This is only what we call an educational intervention.”

Intervention will be offered in group and individual counseling sessions, with the participants making that choice. Intervention includes four monthly visits, each followed by brief telephone check-ins.

The counseling sessions will be conducted by area residents, said Dr. Thomas Keyserling, a professor of medicine at UNC and a practicing internal medicine physician. Peer counselors will be used because they will be familiar with the area’s common foods, the people and their lifestyles.

“This is a community intervention, so they won’t be meeting in doctors’ offices,” Keyserling said.

The diet recommended by the program is called Med-South because it is similar to a Mediterranean diet — a dietary pattern that includes plenty of high quality fats and carbohydrates. However, the Mediterranean type diet recommended by this program is adapted for North Carolina and it focuses on common foods eaten in this part of the country.

“It’s not an olive oil diet, as most people think when it is first mentioned,” Keyserling said.

The Med-South diet is associated with a 30 percent reduction in diabetes and stroke, he said. A similar project using the Med-South diet was undertaken in Lenoir. When surveyed, 98 percent of the Lenoir participants said they like the diet or they like it a lot.

“People who take part in the project really like the diet, and the diet makes a difference,” Keyserling said.

Red Springs was chosen on the advice of an advisory board, he said.

“They recommended Red Springs because they thought it was the right size and it has a community center that could be used for group meetings and it has a farmers market,” Keyserling said. “So it is the right size and it has assets that can be useful.”

Anyone interested in participating in the the Red Springs Healthy Living Project can call 866-266-7914, toll free, or send an email to Leslie Locklear at [email protected]

The project is funded by the National Institutes of Health and is a partnership between the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at UNC and local organizations, such as the Robeson County Health Department.

By T.C. Hunter

[email protected]

Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.

Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.