USC occupational scientist and occupational therapist Elizabeth A. Pyatak, PhD, OTR/L, has received a $450,000 NIH grant to expand her investigation of ways to help young people with diabetes more successfully adopt the self-care habits and protocols recommended by their physicians.

The three-year grant, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, will enable Pyatak, assistant professor in the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, to conduct a clinical study of a health-related lifestyle intervention targeting Los Angeles Latinos in their teens and 20s.

The study will build upon early-stage research that Pyatak conducted at the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

People with diabetes are advised to exercise, eat right, watch their weight, take medications and/or insulin injections, and monitor their blood sugar regularly, explained Pyatak.

“Young people with diabetes often feel like they’ve been given a laundry list of recommendations, but no suggestions on how to integrate those recommendations into their everyday life,” said Pyatak. “These young people need tools to operationalize health habits.”

Pyatak developed a lifestyle intervention program that drew from the extensive literature on diabetes self-care, existing occupational therapy interventions, as well as her own research. Her preliminary findings suggested the lifestyle intervention may lead to improvements in medication adherence, blood glucose monitoring, depression, and quality of life.

The NIH grant will fund a larger, randomized clinical study with 80 participants.

— By Paul Karon