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March 18, 2011

Cheskin Receives Grant As Part of Mobilizing for Health Initiative

Cell Phone Used to Tackle Obesity Among African Americans

Lawrence Cheskin, MD, an associate professor with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society and Director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, has been awarded a Mobilizing for Health grant by the McKesson Foundation. The grants are given to research programs working to improve the health of underserved populations with chronic diseases through the use of mobile phone technology. Cheskin was awarded for his work developing the Tailored Rapid Interactive Mobile Messaging (TRIMM) program.  

TRIMM is a user-friendly individualized mobile health aid designed to help overweight African-American adults achieve healthy lifestyle changes and weight loss. Compared to traditional weight loss programs, TRIMM features periodic, individualized text messages and feedback via mobile phone. TRIMM participants also follow up with a dietitian at 3 and 6 months into the program. Cheskin, along with colleagues, will recruit 150 overweight or obese men and women, many with pre-diabetes or early stage diabetes from inner city Baltimore to participate in the study. Researchers will compare the effectiveness of TRIMM with traditional educational counseling.

“We are pleased to receive this grant which will allow us to demonstrate in a real life setting the potential medical benefits and use to participants of a mobile health program for an underserved group at high risk of diabetes,” said Cheskin. “To reduce diabetes, obesity must be addressed and unfortunately, traditional obesity interventions are often intrusive and costly.”

Type 2 diabetes and obesity have become major strains on the U.S. health care system. According to the American Association for Diabetes, in 2007 the U.S. spent $174 billion on direct medical costs and indirect costs, such as work loss and premature mortality. Urban minority populations disproportionately suffer from type 2 diabetes and obesity with the Centers for Disease Control citing blacks as having a 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity when compared to whites.

The Mobilizing for Health grant program dedicates $1.5 million annually to research grants and field-building activities, such as mobile health conference support and other mobile health field building activities. Beginning in 2009, the McKesson Foundation’s funding area has been chronic disease management in the U.S., with a near-term focus on diabetes. The Mobilizing for Health initiative complements the foundation’s continued support of diabetes management programs at community health centers.

Media contact for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Natalie Wood-Wright at 410-614-6029 or nwoodwri@jhsph.edu.