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December 10, 2020

Virtual diabetes prevention programs available during COVID-19 pandemic

Eating healthy and exercising more often can reverse prediabetes

Prevention Diabetes
Diabetes prevention programs Source/Image licensed from Ingram Image

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are reversible with a healthier diet and exercise. Anyone diagnosed with prediabetes should talk to their doctor about joining a diabetes prevention program.

Approximately one in three adults in the United States has prediabetes – and nearly 90% of them don't even know it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's a scary number considering the condition increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

The Philadelphia Diabetes Prevention Collaborative, a regional group of organizations and companies led by Thomas Jefferson University, is working to stop diabetes before it begins – even during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

They want people to know that diabetes lifestyle change programs are available virtually to keep their health on track.

A person is said to be prediabetic when their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, according to the CDCA random blood sugar test of 200 mg/dL or higher indicated diabetes, though there various diagnostic tests

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are reversible with a healthier diet and exercise. Anyone diagnosed with prediabetes should consult their doctor about joining a diabetes prevention program, health experts say.

The National Diabetes Prevention Program was launched by the CDC in 2010 to address the increased rate of type of 2 diabetes in the U.S. It helps people with prediabetes make behavioral changes related to healthy eating and physical activity in hopes of reducing their diabetes risk. 

Research has shown the program is even more effective than metformin, a medication often prescribed to help control high blood-sugar levels,  said Dr. Mitchell Kaminski, the population health program director at Jefferson's College of Population Health.

One study that examined the national diabetes prevention program found that participants reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 58%. Participants over 60 years old reduced it by 71%. 

"We in Philadelphia have partnered with the American Medical Association and the CDC to promote the lifestyle change program in the five-county region and build awareness of diabetes prevention strategies," Kaminski said.

The Philadelphia Diabetes Prevention Collaborative also seeks to improve access to its classes. This is especially crucial because both diabetes and racial health disparities are risk factors for COVID-19, he said.

Despite the additional pandemic-related challenges, patients have been sticking with the program's year-long commitment, said Neva White, a nurse practitioner and the senior health educator at Jefferson's Center for Urban Health.

"The goal of the first six months of program is weight loss  about 5% to 7% of body weight  and behavior change," White said. "The goal of the second half of the year is to maintain the weight loss and increase physical activity by 150 minutes.

"There are a minimum of 22 sessions. Each hour-long session is very interactive and facilitated by a certified diabetes educator. Attendance has been remarkable."

She added that participants are enjoying the current virtual platform because it easier to stay connected. The program is conducted in five languages: Chinese, English, Laotian, Nepali and Spanish.

Learn more about the Philadelphia Diabetes Prevention Collaborative, including how to join a program, here.

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