YMCA Programs Prevent Diabetes

Diabetes prevention strategies and the needed lifestyle and diabetes changes for improved health are well-known.

Diabetes prevention strategies and the needed lifestyle and diabetes changes for improved health are well-known among health professionals. But strategies for disseminating this information in a way that actively engages the public with long-lasting results has not been as clear. Researchers of a study conducted by the Indiana University School of Medicine, and published in the October 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, appear to have found a clue. The YMCA seems to hold the answer.

“Previous studies, such as the highly regarded national Diabetes Prevention Program, have shown that structured diet and physical exercise can significantly reduce the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes. But these trials involved major lifestyle changes that are difficult to translate into large-scale, community-level programs. In our study we were able to train lay people in the community to deliver the program at the YMCA, an environment accessible to many people with pre-diabetes, to help them sustain lifestyle changes,” stated principal author Ronald Ackermann, MD, MPH, IU School of Medicine assistant professor of medicine and deputy director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research (CHPPR).

The YMCA is in a unique position to conduct diabetes prevention initiatives through its strong foundation in communities and already-existing infrastructure. There are 2,686 YMCAs nationwide, which are home to 20,916,698 members, and 548,926 volunteers. The YMCA actively works as one of the nation’s largest providers of health/well-being programs, and even hosts a program that encourages exercise and healthy living known as YMCA Activate America®.

The Indiana University study created a pilot cluster-randomized trial to compare group-based Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) lifestyle intervention offered by the YMCA to brief counseling alone (control group) in adults who attended a diabetes risk-screening event at one of two semi-urban YMCA facilities and appeared to have pre-diabetes.

At a follow-up visit, participants in the group-based intervention had a 6% decrease in bodyweight, compared to only 2% in the control group, which was a clinically meaningful and signification result. The same difference was found at the 12-14 month follow-up visit as well.

"By lowering the cost of and expanding the accessibility to diabetes-prevention services, the YMCA may serve not only to increase the number of individuals with pre-diabetes who have access to and can pay for evidence-based diabetes prevention; it may also provide a compelling model for health-plan reimbursement. This provides yet another compelling reason to develop and test novel strategies that link community-based program delivery with existing clinical services that could help to identify and activate more adults with pre-diabetes," concluded the study.

Further information can be found here.