Rosa Keller was drawn to Thailand because of her love for Thai food. In fall of 2014, she studied in Khon Kaen, Thailand, through CIEE. At Oregon State University, Rosa is majoring in both Nutrition and Anthropology. During her time abroad, she was able to integrate her knowledge of people and food by conducting a nutrition intervention in rural northeast Thailand.
Before traveling to Thailand, I had no idea how much I would learn about intervention planning, public health, and group work. Having so much freedom and knowing that the work we were doing was really helping people live healthier lives gave me so much motivation to do my best. The last couple of months of my time in Thailand were dedicated to conducting research, planning community visits, and finally, implementing a public health intervention based on community need.
Our group conducted a nutrition education and a diabetes screening intervention in a rural village in northeast Thailand. We decided to focus on these topics due to an increasing rate of Type-2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) in Thailand, specifically in the northeast region. Our initial research concluded that Nonsang Village had a high prevalence of T2DM but a low rate of diabetes screening. Additionally, we observed a lack of awareness of healthy portion sizes and dietary practices. Our research in the community led us to develop our intervention.
First, we held a community dinner where we educated villagers on healthy portion sizes, mindful eating, and the biological and behavioral factors that lead to development of T2DM. All of the food that was prepared for the dinner was either grown or purchased from the village to ensure that the meal was sustainable. The menu included things like steamed veggies, chili sauces for dipping, omelets, and spicy green papaya salad, with fruit for dessert. The following day, we worked with the Health Promoting Hospital and village health volunteers to hold a T2DM screening session. For both events, there were around 30 participants in a village with a population of around 500 people, which was our expected outcome.
Overall, the intervention was a success; but, most importantly, through our experience we were able to build a strong relationship with the community. I truly hope that our intervention empowered the villagers to eat healthy and be more mindful of their dietary intake. Through this intervention, I was able to learn how community participation is an important asset to a successful intervention.