Diabetes is damaging the health and economic well being of our state. A group of College of Communication (CCOM) students is doing something about it.

Working on behalf of the Indiana office of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), students in this semester’s Strategic Communication for Nonprofits course are helping plan and promote an innovative “Stop Diabetes Think Tank.” Approximately 100 thought leaders from throughout the state are being brought together for the Nov. 30 event to help identify ways to combat the devastating impact of the disease.

Students created the event invitation and secured Gerry Dick, host of “Inside INdiana Business,” as moderator. Just prior to fall break, students and ADA’s leadership met to finalize event logistics and media relations strategy, which will focus on event promotion and social media tactics during and after the event.

Allie Qualls, senior integrated communications major, led initial creative work, while Will Alexander, a senior communications studies and public relations major, championed early media outreach. Other students in the class have assumed primary leadership responsibilities for the event and media-related work for the balance of the semester.

Following the event, students will debrief with the association’s leadership team and offer their observations and recommendations from the Stop Diabetes Think Tank’s dialogue. That input will be added to the participants’ evaluations and will help inform the organization’s plan for follow up with attendees.

“We are extremely pleased to have been offered this opportunity and entrusted with the responsibility to help assure the success of an initiative so important to the Indiana office,” said Ed Kanis, who has instructed the course for the past two years. “Our students have embraced the challenge — and opportunity — this event provides for the ADA and the chance to make an impact on Hoosiers’ lives.

Kanis, who also coordinates the college’s Internship Program, said CCOM’s relationship with the ADA began when student Jacqui Giannini interned with the association in spring 2011. That paved the way for the Strategic Communication for Nonprofits class to connect with the organization. “Joy Mahoney, the office’s associate director for communications and marketing, was so pleased with Jacqui’s work that we began exploring how the college could be a resource beyond internship support,” Kanis said. After several summer planning meetings, work begun in earnest during fall semester.

Think Tank participants will hear remarks from Indiana First Lady Cheri Daniels; Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of the Division of Diabetes Translation for the Centers for Disease Control, and Dr. Gregory Larkin, state commissioner of health, as well as leadership of the Indiana ADA office. Roundtable discussions will identify participants’ concerns and recommendations.

Current estimates show that nearly 714,000 Hoosier adults, or 13.6 percent, have diabetes. An estimated 1.6 million more Hoosiers have prediabetes. The impact of diabetes in the workplace is significant, as employees grapple with the disease daily and employers must find ways to cover the costs of health care plans and lost productivity due to employees’ absenteeism. Figures from the State Department of Health show diabetes’ annual financial cost to Indiana employers at approximately $4 billion.

“We simply must take action to heighten awareness of the disease and its costs to our state,” Jennifer Pferrer, executive director of the Indiana office, said. “Our goal with the Stop Diabetes Think Tank is to begin the dialogue aimed at identifying workable solutions and then put action plans together to implement them.”

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