University at Buffalo undergraduate students recently spent two weeks in Jamaica finding out about behavior-driven diseases as part of an experiential learning study-abroad program offered through UBThisWinter.
During their time in Jamaica, students explored how lifestyle choices related to food intake and physical activity levels are linked to obesity from two perspectives: the United States and Jamaica. The U.S. has one of the highest obesity rates (37 percent) in the world, while Jamaica’s is currently much less. But Jamaica’s obesity rate is rapidly increasing and is a major public health concern. Diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are also rising.
Western dietary influences are creeping in as Jamaica becomes more industrialized, says Dr. Jessica Kruger, community health and health behavior clinical assistant professor, University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. Dr. Kruger organized the Jamaica trip with Harold Burton, associate professor emeritus of exercise and nutrition sciences.
UB students interacted with faculty and students in health-related disciplines at the University of the West Indies, where they stayed; explored markets and farms in the area to determine the availability and cost of fresh food; and visited various restaurants and other food outlets to assess nutritional value of prepared food.
They maintained a daily log and created video presentations telling the story of the Jamaican lifestyle and the impact of changes over time on the precipitous rise in behavior-driven disease there.
“It was a complete cultural immersion,” says public health major Ms. Rachel Wenner. “We didn’t go to the touristy sites. We went to the places that the people recommended and where we could get a truly Jamaican experience.”Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on March 06