Med-South Lifestyle Program

Taking the Med-South Lifestyle Program to Scale

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Leeman, DrPH, MPH, MDiv and Carmen Samuel-Hodge, RD, PhD
Funded by: Centers for Disease Control

Even as medicine continues to evolve and advance year over year, some patient populations are being left behind. Income inequality, lack of access to fresh foods, and the traditionally rich cooking of the Southeast can lead to high rates of stroke, heart disease and diabetes in Southern communities. The Med-South Lifestyle program aims to assess the best way to reach these primarily rural, minority and low-income communities to improve their health through preventive lifestyle changes. This innovative project is based in the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), one of only 26 institutions involved in the CDC Prevention Research Center (PRC) network.

The Med-South Lifestyle program will study the logistics of implementing lifestyle interventions in at-risk communities across North Carolina. Although changes in diet and exercise have been shown to be effective in improving health, wide-scale implementation is still a challenge, especially in areas with few resources. The program adjusts traditional Mediterranean diets to be applicable to at-risk Southeastern populations. Mediterranean-style dietary patterns emphasize consumption of whole grains, healthy fats and vegetables and have been empirically linked to lower incidence of chronic disease. The project will also provide support for exercise. Dr. Leeman and co-PI Carmen Samuel-Hodge will assess best practices for implementing the Med-South Lifestyle program at scale over the course of the five-year project.