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North Country HealthCare to launch free prediabetes support class

Arizona Daily Sun - 1/19/2020

Jan. 18--With a new grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, North Country HealthCare will begin hosting a program tailored to the many people on the cusp of type 2 diabetes.

Throughout the state, a third of all adults, or 2.1 million people, have prediabetes -- higher than normal blood sugar levels -- the Arizona Department of Health Services reports, compared to the one in 10 who have diabetes.

Nationally, the CDC estimates 86 million Americans have prediabetes, but 90% are unaware.

A handful of those who are aware, though, walk into the decades-old diabetes classes at North Country every month seeking guidance, said diabetes program coordinator Cassandra Raines, but are met with material that does not quite suit them.

"Yes, they can go there and learn what diabetes is all about, what the complications are, but it wasn't tailored towards them," Raines said. "Locally, I felt like I was failing in helping this population that obviously needs help in prevention because, in five years, they could have the onset of type 2 diabetes, which is what I don't want. Once you get the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, you can't reverse that diagnosis, whereas with prediabetes, oftentimes we can."

To address this, North Country will be implementing PreventT2, a lifestyle management class part of the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program that works to teach participants the skills needed to prevent diabetes. Using the CDC grant, the class will be offered for free in Flagstaff, Bullhead City and Round Valley. The first sessions are January 27. Each location still has about 20 available spaces.

Recent reports of North Country's patient population in the three areas where the classes will be held revealed about 2,000 patients with prediabetes; however, the class is not limited to North Country patients.

Anyone over the age of 18 with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater and a recent blood test or risk assessment suggesting prediabetes can join the program. People already with a diabetes diagnosis are not able to participate.

Participants will meet every Monday for an hour to discuss topics such as "Shop and Cook to Prevent T2" and "Find Time for Fitness." They will also meet with a lifestyle coach for a private weigh-in and review of their diet and activity levels for the previous week; critiques are not allowed, though, Raines said.

After the first six months, the group will reduce meetings to once a month to complete the remaining lessons.

"What they all tailor down to is learning skills to cope with stress, making healthier food choice options and exercising more," Raines said. "Those three things are what's going to help them make those overall changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. It always comes down to diet and exercise."

The goal of the program is to have participants lose 5-7% of their body weight and reach 150 minutes of exercise a week, factors that will cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half.

Raines said these goals are not as lofty as they sound because they take place over an entire year, but still require effort.

"It is a commitment and the more you engage and do this, the more likely you are to see results. If you don't, you're not going to see results," Raines said. "There is no quick way, fast way that's going to help you make these lasting changes you need to make behavior-wise."

She added that the group format of Prevent T2, like existing support groups for North Country's diabetic patients, is likely to be more effective than the presentations of existing diabetes classes.

"In this group setting, instead of an authority figure telling you that you're doing something wrong, you have a group that's supporting you. It eliminates a lot of barriers and makes it more comfortable for sharing and realizing that you're not the only person struggling through this," Raines said.

She encourages participates to bring their friends, family or other supporters to the meeting so they can join the discussion.

The CDC grant will last three years and North Country plans to begin a new class every six months, when the previous group has reduced meetings to once a month. Even when the grant ends, though, Raines hopes to find additional sources of funding to continue offering the program for free to community members.

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