Early results indicate YMCA’s diabetes prevention program is changing lives

January 24, 2013

Meet Rebecca, one of the participants in the first class of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. “For years I sat on the side-line and watched everyone else enjoy life” says Rebecca. “I couldn’t even take my daughter to Disney World because I knew I wouldn’t fit in the rides, much less, be able to walk around the park.” In a one-income family, Rebecca knew she couldn’t afford a gym membership and didn’t know how to take the first step. But all that changed when a co-worker told her about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. 

So far, Rebecca has lost 85 lbs and she credits all her success to the YMCA. “The biggest change has been how I feel. Now I can conquer anything and seize new opportunities – I’m so much more confident and positive. It’s helped me become the person I was meant to be, and I’m not hiding her anymore.”

Rebecca is taking her daughter to Disney World for the first time this year. “I’m not a burden to my daughter anymore. Food was controlling us, and now our whole family is involved in getting healthier and they love it.” Rebecca is just one of 84 participants having remarkable success at the YMCA. 

Early results from the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program indicate that it is extremely effective at lowering blood glucose levels and preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes for at-risk adults. Participants from the first class that started 6 months ago have lowered their BMI by 11% and lowered their fasting glucose levels nearly 16%. 

The program is getting significant positive feedback and support from health care professionals – community health partners including area physicians, PA’s, nurses, and other practitioners  have referred over half of the current participants. In fact, the YMCA just honored Dr. Adam Kinninger, McDowell Hospital’s new Chief of Staff, with the Champion of Health Award for his support and dedication to this program. “About 60% of our physician referrals come from Dr. Kinninger’s office – he and his staff are dedicated to getting people healthy the right way” says Meghan Merritt, Director of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. 

The YMCA of Western North Carolina was recently awarded a grant of $25,000 from the Mission Foundation which will further the efforts of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program in McDowell County. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) led by the National Institutes of Health, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which showed that lifestyle changes and modest weight reduction can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent among those with pre-diabetes.

“We now have proof that lifestyle interventions delivered through community-based organizations such as the Y can save lives and health care dollars,” said Tim Blenco, Executive Community Director of the Corpening Memorial YMCA. The goals of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program are to reduce and maintain individual weight loss by at least 7 percent and to increase physical activity to 150 minutes per week. The program provides a supportive environment where participants work together in a small group to learn about healthier eating and increasing their physical activity in order to reduce their risk for developing diabetes.

McDowell County alone has over 6,000 people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Traditionally prevention programs like this are expensive and out of reach for most county residents, but thanks to the grant money received, the Y can promise accessibility to all. Preventing diabetes not only saves lives, but prevents a huge medical expense to our community. If all 84 participants from this first year are successful in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes, we will have saved our community over 1 million dollars in medical expenses this year alone. “Providing support and opportunities that empower people to be healthy and live well is part of the YMCA’s charitable purpose” says Blenco. 

With the support of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Mission Foundation, CDC, and the supporters of the YMCA’s Healthier Communities Campaign, the Y stands to reduce the burden of type 2 diabetes, one of our community’s most prevalent and costliest diseases. “With CDC’s recent prediction of an increase in type 2 diabetes rates, it’s of the utmost importance that we do all we can to help the thousands of individuals with pre-diabetes in McDowell county prevent the onset of the disease to live healthy, happy and more productive lives” said Blenco.

Rebecca Ervin is living proof – “It’s changed my whole life and I’m never going back.”

The Y will be offering classes as often as possible to ensure those in need can participate. Those at risk for type 2 diabetes, or who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, may talk to their doctor, call the YMCA at 828-659-9622, or go online for more information.