YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program Combats Pre-Diabetes

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Community, Diabetes, Health, Multimedia, New York City, Uncategorized, YMCA

In hopes of preventing type 2 diabetes (a disease where the body is unable to produce enough insulin), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health care company UnitedHealth Group have teamed up with The YMCA of Greater New York to expand the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, or YDPP, throughout the YMCA’s 20 branches in New York City. Each class in the program consists of eight to 15 participants.

According to the CDC, nearly 35% of adults in the United States have pre-diabetes, and 23% of adult New Yorkers have pre-diabetes. The CDC defines pre-diabetes as a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Diabetes can lead to very serious complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, neuropathy, blindness and leg and foot amputations. According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, it is also the fourth leading cause of death in New York City.

With over 1 million pre-diabetic adults in New York City, the YDPP is a response to the epidemic based on the National Diabetes Prevention Program, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the CDC. The YDPP offers 16 weekly one-hour sessions with a lifestyle coach that works closely with eight to 15 participants who have or are at high-risk of having pre-diabetes. During each session, the coach and participants discuss health topics, including counting calories, reading nutrition labels, weight management, stress and dining out.

The YDPP had launched pilot programs at the Vanderbilt and Bedford-Stuyvesant branches last August. On March 22nd, the YMCA of Greater New York announced their plans of expanding the program throughout the branches in all five boroughs.

“When it first was introduced to the Y, I loved it right from the first time I heard about it,” YDPP coach Janet LoCurto said. “I just thought this was right up my alley.”

LoCurto is the YDPP coach and membership director at the Vanderbilt branch located on 224 E. 47th St. in Manhattan. Having an interest in health and a family history of type 2 diabetes helped LoCurto realize that the role of a lifestyle coach was a perfect fit. It also encouraged her to make a significant change.

“I stopped smoking in order to do this program so that I could actually sit and speak with my participants with validity that ‘You know what? I did make a big lifestyle change,’ and now I’ll tackle whatever else I have to tackle,” LoCurto said.

LoCurto, who’s currently teaching the second session of the YDPP, said that there were positive changes for the participants in the pilot session and that their numbers- including blood pressure, A1C levels and weight- dropped.

“We had 16 weeks of wonderful coaching and personal leadership and guidance from someone who was there to help us investigate our own problems, identify solutions, and help us plan a road map for success,” former participant Kerry Watterson said. “Well all came each week ready to share and excited to talk about tracking the food that we had eaten that week and what exercise we did or didn’t do.”

Watterson first learned about the YDPP when he received an email from New York State Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, whose wife, Meredith Ballew, works at the Vanderbilt YMCA. Watterson also has a family history of diabetes. His mother was diagnosed over 20 years ago with type 2 diabetes, and his mother’s aunt had both legs amputated due to the disease.

But the wake-up call for Watterson was his older brother’s 100 pound weight-loss.

“He was always the biggest of us and no longer was and now I was. We’re competitive and that just couldn’t be,” Watterson said.

“So I had to find a way to work on my physical size but also to address the inevitable issue of ‘Will I be diagnosed diabetic since its part of our family?’ I don’t want to end up like my mom in that wheelchair and I want to change my future and change my life,” Watterson said.

The expansion of the program comes at a time where the country is seeing more cases of diabetes. According to the CDC, 1.9 million adults were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010.

“With 2 million people added to that number last year and its growing,” Gina Murdoch said. “And that’s a big jump in one year, so our educational efforts about pre-diabetes are critically important.”

Murdoch is the executive director of the American Diabetes Association for the Greater New York City area. Murdoch said that the YDPP is a great program and that its motive runs in sync with the ADA’s mission.

“There are people that don’t even realize that they are at a pre-diabetes stage and don’t even know until they develop the complications that they have diabetes,” Murdoch said.

The YDPP cost for eligible participants is $40 for YMCA members and $80 for nonmembers. The fee includes 16 weekly one-hour sessions with a lifestyle coach and access to the YMCA gymnasium and workout facilities. Pre-diabetics insured by UnitedHealth Group may not have to pay, as the company may cover full cost. For those who are unable to pay the fee, LoCurto said eligible participants are not turned away and the YMCA has a scholarship program to fund costs. Because diabetes is not reversible, the program is only for pre-diabetics.

“It is a scary thought when you know the numbers but 1.4 million adult New Yorkers are pre-diabetic. So it is a community problem spread throughout New York City,” LoCurto said.

“There are certain things we can’t control; there are certain things we can and I think this program is important to New York City because of the number of people [who are pre-diabetic],” Watterson said. “Being on the other side now, I am so grateful for the opportunity, I am so grateful to the YMCA and the Center for Disease Control for creating this program and for bringing it to New York City and for allowing us take part of it.”


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