Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Insurance-Sponsored Diabetes Prevention Program Getting Results

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Insurance-Sponsored Diabetes Prevention Program Getting Results

Article excerpt

Dave Elmer remembers being irked at a health screening when a nurse told him - in a nice way - that he was a mess.

She also forcefully encouraged him to enroll in a program offered at his local YMCA for people at risk of developing diabetes.

"It's the best thing that's ever happened to me," said Mr. Elmer, a certified public accountant who lives in Menomonee Falls, Wis.

When he began the 16-week program, Mr. Elmer would get winded walking a few blocks. Six months later, he was taking six-mile walks, and he now walks two to six miles a day, five or six times a week.

His weight has fallen to 170 pounds from 217 pounds. His blood pressure and blood sugar are down. And he no longer is at risk for diabetes.

"My numbers are all within the normal range," Mr. Elmer said.

Mr. Elmer is among more than 800 people in southeastern Wisconsin, and more than 19,500 nationwide, who have enrolled in the Diabetes Prevention Program offered by YMCA of the USA in partnership with the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and UnitedHealth Group.

The program, launched in 2010, is an example of a proven, cost- effective, scalable initiative that focuses on keeping people healthy and, in the process, changes lives and helps slow the rise in health care costs.

It also is an example of an approach to improving health that takes place in the community and not a doctor's office.

Nationally, if trends continue, an estimated 40 million adults could have diabetes by 2021, up from 28 million in 2011, according to an article in Health Affairs, a policy journal, by UnitedHealth Group doctors and executives. An estimated 100 million people could have prediabetes by then.

YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee introduced the Diabetes Prevention Program in 2011. YMCA of Central Waukesha County, in partnership with YMCA at Pabst Farms, and YMCA of Kettle Moraine, did the same last year.

The response, so far, has been strong.

Roughly 300 people enrolled in 39 classes offered last year by the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, with the cost for 277 of them paid by their employer through UnitedHealthcare. This year, the YMCA hopes to enroll 455 people in 45 classes.

The classes are offered at Y's as well as workplaces and community sites.

The 16-week course, which is followed by monthly meetings, includes information on diet and exercise. But more than anything else, the program sets out to change lifestyles in a way that is supportive and nonjudgmental.

Vicki Olejnik, who is nearing the end of the program, initially thought that 16 weeks was a long time.

"Now I'm kind of sorry it's almost over," she said.

Ms. Olejnik, who has tried several diets over the years, has lost 24 pounds since the start of the program.

"It's surprisingly easy," she said. …

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