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J Assoc Physicians India. 2006 Nov;54:858-62.

Community empowerment--a successful model for prevention of non-communicable diseases in India--the Chennai Urban Population Study (CUPS-17).

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  • 1Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre, Gopalapuram, Chennai, India.



Randomized clinical trials have documented that lifestyle changes through physical activity can prevent diabetes. However there is no data whether such strategies are applicable at community level, that is, in a real life setting. This study demonstrates the first attempt in India, to our knowledge, of increasing physical activity through community empowerment in an attempt at primary prevention of non communicable diseases.


The Chennai Urban Population Study [CUPS] was conducted in the year 1996 in two residential areas: a middle income group the Asiad colony at Tirumangalam, and a low income group at Bharathi Nagar in T. Nagar. The Asiad colony was selected for this study. Of the 524 eligible individuals available at baseline in 1998 [age > or =20 years], 479 individuals consented for the study (response rate: 91.4%). After seven years, in 2004, the number of eligible individuals increased to 712 of whom 705 consented for the study (response rate:99%). Education regarding the benefits of physical activity was provided by mass awareness programmes like public lectures and video clippings. Both at baseline and during follow-up, details about the physical activity were collected using a validated questionnaire, which included job related and leisure time activities, and specific questions on exercise. Study individuals were then graded as having light, moderate and heavy physical activity using a scoring system.


In response to the awareness programmes given by our research team, the colony residents constructed a unique public park with their own funds. Though the occupation grades did not change, there was a significant change in the pattern of physical activity. At baseline, only 14.2% of the residents did some form of exercise. more than three times a week, which presently increased to 58.7% [p < 0.001]. The number of subjects who walked more than three times a week increased from 13.8% at baseline to 52.1% during follow-up [p < 0.001].


This study is a demonstration of how community empowerment with increased physical activity could possibly lead to prevention of diabetes and other non communicable diseases at the community level. This study also highlights the importance of sharing the results of research studies with the community.

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