Diabetes Prevention Program promotes strategies for healthy living

Emory Report | Jan. 14, 2021

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The 2021 series of Diabetes Prevention Program classes will begin in February for Emory employees who have prediabetes or are at risk for Type 2 diabetes. The free, year-long program is facilitated by a lifestyle coach and offers participants engaging classes that focus on nutrition and physical activity.

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Emory’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) offers employees who either have prediabetes or are at risk for Type 2 diabetes an opportunity to learn strategies for healthy living in order to prevent or delay developing the disease. The free, year-long program is facilitated by a lifestyle coach and offers participants engaging classes that focus on nutrition and physical activity.

Last year, the program transitioned to a virtual format due to the pandemic, which led to better access and made it easier for many participants to attend. The virtual format will continue in 2021.

The next series of DPP classes will begin in February; five online orientation sessions are scheduled in January for those who would like to learn more (register here). As an added bonus, Emory offers medical plan incentives to eligible employees who participate. 

Making lifestyle changes possible

Often, the health and wellness industry makes dieting and exercise seem complicated, leaving people feeling unmotivated to make changes. Emory lifestyle coach Caroline Brassfield enjoys helping translate that difficult or complex information into smaller, actionable tidbits — which is a hallmark of the DPP.

Going through the program provides a much-needed outlet for participants to talk through the difficult parts of lifestyle change and break them down into clear and simple strategies. The setting also provides accountability through the participants’ relationships with each other and their lifestyle coach.

“I love getting to know my class participants and being a sounding board for them as they go through the program,” Brassfield says.

Tony Kimbrell, director of development for Oxford College, says he was motivated to participate in the DPP because both his parents had Type 2 diabetes. Kimbrell was diagnosed with prediabetes years ago and takes medication to help maintain an A1c level below 5.7 (the lowest blood sugar level considered to be prediabetes). He uses the MyFitnessPal app to track his diet and exercise and has lost 10 pounds since starting the DPP; he is close to achieving his personal weight goal that will put him within the healthy BMI range. Kimbrell says he enjoyed the comradery and support from his classmates, and that Brassfield made the class something to look forward to each week.

Gina White, a pre-award research administrator in the School of Medicine, joined the DPP to learn how to develop better eating habits and feel better. She likes the focus on long-term lifestyle change, specifically related to nutrition and healthy food choices. Since joining the program, White is eating better and has become more active. She is watching her fat intake and tracking her food and physical activity, which has helped increase her awareness and motivation.

Juliet Richardson, a unit clerk in the cardiac ICU at Emory University Hospital Midtown, has dealt with prediabetes for several years. She knew that having a coach would help keep her accountable when she wanted to eat better and establish an exercise regimen that worked for her. Participating in the DPP helped her stay honest and increased her awareness of the fats and calories in the foods she eats. Now, she always reads the labels before she buys her food. Richardson has lost 12 pounds since starting the DPP and plans to lose at least five more. She liked the virtual format because it fit perfectly with her schedule and meant she had no commute time.

Maggie Sofidiya is a registered nurse working in the level 3 neonatal intensive care unit at Emory Decatur Hospital. She was disappointed to learn that her weight gain and suboptimal eating habits meant she qualified to join the DDP. However, the virtual format enabled Maggie to commit to the year-long classes that helped her to gain control of her portion sizes and increase her physical activity. By doing these things, she has already reached her target weight. 

Impacting employee health

Emory University first launched the DPP in 2017 and later offered the program to employees of the university and Emory Healthcare. A 2020 DPP participant survey indicated positive program results:

  • 86% achieved or made progress toward their weight loss goal
  • 100% made positive changes in their eating habits
  • 78% increased their physical activity level
  • 43% decreased their blood pressure
  • 39% decreased their cholesterol level
  • 75% improved their A1c level
  • 70% increased their energy level
  • 61% reported less stress
  • 93% would participate in the future
  • 100% were satisfied with the program
  • 100% recommend this program to other employees
  • 100% agree that the program is a valuable benefit for employees

For more details, visit the Diabetes Prevention Program webpage.