CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A new program aims to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks among adults in Southwest Virginia.

The University of Virginia School of Medicine has teamed up with community groups in that region to test a web-based program called iSIPsmarter.

According to a release, this study has been funded by a five-year, $3.4 million grant from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

It's also part of ongoing efforts to work with Southwest Virginia residents to improve health rates across the region.

The release says adults in the Southwest Virginia region drink two to three times more sugary drinks than the average American, which makes them more likely to develop a range of health conditions, such as diabetes.

“Health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer are directly related to sugar consumption, and those health problems are comparatively high in MEOC’s rural service area,” said Judy Miller, Care Coordination Director at Mountain Empire Older Citizens in Big Stone Gap. “iSIPsmarter will have a positive impact on participants who follow the program’s action plans to decrease the amount of sugar consumed in drinks.”

The app evolved from an earlier health education program called SIPsmartER, which was also designed to help residents in Southwest Virginia counties improve their diets and reach healthier weights.

The release says the participating counties saw reductions in sugary drinks of about 20 ounces per day, which did help some people lose weight and improve their quality of life.

Now, combining the lessons from the SIPsmartER with modern technology, like sending health information through text messages, iSIPsmarter aims to be more convenient for people to use.

Erin Shaffer, the Behavioral Health Supervisor at the Community Health Center of the New River Valley, hopes this will impact family health.

“Partnering with the iSIPsmarter program will allow us to educate patients and engage them in healthy lifestyle changes that will impact their overall health and the health of their family,” she said.

“Our experience in the region shows that reducing sugary drinks is one of the first and most important steps to improving overall health,” said Jamie Zoellner at the UVA School of Medicine. “We think this free, web-based program will increase residents’ access to personalized and evidence-based health education. Also, no travel or in-person visits are required to join the program, which is especially important during the ongoing COVID pandemic.”

Residents of the Southwest Virginia area who would like to join the study can click here and complete an interest screener.