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NADI trains students to provide health screenings for diabetes, hypertension

North American Disease Intervention (NADI) trains students to provide health screenings for diabetes and hypertension to local community members.  – Photo by Matt C / Unsplash

In fall 2015, Aayush Visaria, then a Rutgers graduate student, started North American Disease Intervention (NADI), an organization dedicated to raising attention for diabetes and hypertension.

The group’s main function lies in training and certifying students to perform preventive screenings at community spaces including libraries, senior centers and places of worship, said Visaria, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Rutgers. 

Since NADI’s conception, the organization has trained more than 1,000 undergraduate students in providing community health screenings and encouraged students to explore hypertension and diabetes research, he said.

Visaria said he originally founded the organization due to the lack of diabetes and hypertension awareness in the country.

To resolve this issue, he wanted to use a community-level approach that provides personalized screenings to populations that are often overlooked in terms of health care such as minorities, he said.

“While there are many organizations, including large hospital systems, that provide health screenings, we are unique in that we place great emphasis on preventive medicine, on health education and on serving the local community,” Visaria said. “A large, dedicated student membership has given us the ability to hold a higher frequency of health screenings and follow-up screenings than even large hospital systems.”

He said NADI provides pre-med students clinical opportunities, which can be difficult to come by, especially for undergraduates. Visaria said much of the organization’s work is done by an executive board of Rutgers students who train members and organize screenings.

Kavi Wickramasinghe, a School of Engineering senior and former president of NADI, said she originally joined the organization because she wanted to make a tangible impact on community members’ lives as well as explore a career in health care. “Being part of NADI was a key factor in shaping my decision to pursue a career in medicine,” she said. “The emotional fulfillment I found from helping community members improve their blood pressure over time was like no other feeling I had ever experienced, and I want to spend my career preventing needless suffering in vulnerable populations.” Wickramasinghe said the NADI team is composed of undergraduates, graduate students and medical school students who have held over 100 health screenings for over 10,000 patients. She said the organization has also collaborated with local organizations such as the New Brunswick Farmer's Market.

Sasha Levine, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and vice president of NADI, said that prior to performing screenings, students are trained on how to take and analyze vitals and provide specific preventative education based on them. 

Once students successfully complete the assessments, they can attend the various clinical screenings, she said.

The screenings provide patients with their blood pressure measurements, body mass index, body fat percentage and grip strength measurements, Wickramasinghe said. These numbers can help determine whether the patient is at risk for developing diabetes or hypertension, she said.

Since these diseases are largely preventable, these screenings help patients know whether they need to make the correct lifestyle changes to reduce their likelihood of developing the diseases, Wickramasinghe said. 

In addition to screenings, she said the organization hosts keynote speakers, medical student panel discussions and health care networking events for students interested in medicine, she said.

Levine said the organization ultimately spreads awareness about patients’ individual health and efforts they can take to improve it, especially to those who may not be able to receive the health care they need.

It does this by focusing on vitals that are indicative about a person's health and teaches them to reflect on how they can improve their lifestyle, she said.

“(The organization) enables us to offer a new way of interacting with the greater New Brunswick community, where we introduce students who are passionate in health (and) medicine to people within the community who benefit from students who care about their health,” Levine said.

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