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3 health agencies join forces

Aim is to lower risk of diabetes, cancer, heart ills

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In an effort to help lower the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, three of the nation's top nonprofit health agencies are combining forces in a three-year campaign.

The local Utah chapters of the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association announced this week they will work together to make the general public and physicians aware of the prevention and early detection of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

It is the first time the three organizations have combined to provide unified recommendations for patients and screening advice for physicians.

"I'm glad we've finally reached the point where we can work together and I'm expecting to see a significant impact in the way we practice medicine," Alireza Falahati, an endocrinology and metabolism physician from St. Mark's Hospital, said during a press conference at St. Mark's.

"We are finally at a point where patients can get the same recommendations from their endocrinologists or oncologist in regard to their lifestyle and screening, so then we increase efficiency."

"Everyday Choices For a Healthier Life" is the name of the three-year public and professional education and advocacy campaign, to be focused around four preventive strategies: Eat right, be physically active, don't smoke and see a physician.

"Collectively, diabetes, cancer and heart conditions make up two of three deaths. Obesity, poor nutrition and tobacco use have a significant impact on these diseases. This collaboration will allow us to adopt an ambitious agenda and work together to fix things," said Rose Defa, executive director of the Utah American Cancer Society.

The public service effort will cost $3 million and will include a three-year advertising campaign to increase awareness on the effects of physical inactivity and poor nutrition, according to Karmeen Kulkarni, national president-elect of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association.

"The ads will focus on mainly women since they are most likely to be the primary care givers," said Debra Cox, executive director of the Utah American Hearth Association. "Prevention, prevention, prevention."

In addition to public awareness, the organizations plan to work with state leaders and policy makers to do things such as increase the funding of research for the prevention and early detection of diseases.

"We also plan to work with state and local school districts so that kids K through five will have physical education every day. This will significantly improve their health in their youth and improve their adult physical life," said Beverly May, Utah's board chairwoman-elect for the American Heart Association.

E-mail: sbaghbani@desnews.com