Delaying Diabetes: ACH offers diabetes prevention program
By Shannon Harsh, The Review, Published January 20, 2016.
After taking a year off to focus the program on its employees, Alliance Community Hospital is once again offering a diabetes prevention program to the community.
“It’s an opportunity to delay the onset of diabetes by incorporating good nutrition, physical activity and behavior modification,” Beth Lawrence, dietician and diabetes educator, said, adding that it is based on the Diabetes Prevention Program that the CDC also uses.
Lawrence and Connie Altomare, RN, diabetes educator, were certified to teach the program from the University of Pittsburgh. They teach it as a team, topics including nutrition and diet, exercise and behavior modification. “We like the team approach because it gives our participants a different perspective and it gives us some flexibility,” Lawrence said.
The program is geared toward anyone who has been diagnosed with prediabetes, which Altomare said means they could have a high A1C, high BMI, high cholesterol or had gestational diabetes. She said prediabetes is often diagnosed when the numbers are elevated, but not yet to the point where they can be diagnosed with diabetes, which means a fasting blood sugar between 100-125 or an A1C blood test result between 5.7 and 6.4.
“The whole program was designed by the fact that by changing some of your lifestyle habits, you can delay the onset of diabetes even better than medication can,” Lawrence said. “To a lot of people that’s a challenge, but it’s also a better option than immediately going to medication.”
Altomare agreed that it is often difficult for people to find the motivation to change their lifestyle habits. “If they come in wanting to do it, it’s a lot easier than if they come in here thinking they’re being forced,” she said.
Lawrence said it’s often more challenging to stay motivated over a long period of time, which is why the program follows the participants for a year, giving them the tools they need to make the necessary changes. She said they meet frequently at first and the group support helps foster the motivation and eventually it becomes a part of their lifestyle as they gradually back off and meet less frequently.
The year-long program starts out with 12 core sessions meeting once a week, then gradually drops to every other week and eventually once a month. They said it is always a group setting, which Altomare said is the biggest component as it gives participants added support. “You’re not out there doing it by yourself. You’re sitting here and then someone will say, ‘Well, yeah, I had that problem too this week,’ and then it allows them to grow that cohesiveness and help each other,” she explained.
When asked why it is important that they offer such a program, the pair offered up some startling statistics. “With about 89 million people with prediabetes, I hate to think what that’s going to be like if they became diabetic,” Altomare said.
“Statistics show that 1 in 3 people by 2050 will be diabetic, but we think that it’s modifiable. So, professionally, there’s so much to be gained from this program before it becomes a bigger cost for individuals and our health care system,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said the message is simple, but it takes a three-pronged approach to accomplish it — eat right, move and make lifestyle changes. “We want to encourage them,” she added. “There’s lots of things they can’t control, but usually what they eat and how much they move at this point is something that can delay those problems down the road.”
The hour-long classes began Tuesday and will continue next Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. There is a fee of $75 to cover the cost of materials, but a scholarship fund is available for those who can’t afford it.
To learn how to join the class or to express interest in future class at a different date/time, contact Educational Services at 330-596-7888.
Alliance Community Hospital diabetes educator and dietician Beth Lawrence and diabetes educator and nurse Connie Altomare talk about prediabetes education. (Photo courtesy of the Alliance Review Janurary 20, 2016).