Main content
Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital improves Atlanta's health with diabetes prevention program

Media Contact

Mary Beth Spence
Senior Manager, Media Relations

Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital is providing opportunities for Emory Healthcare employees and the Atlanta community to get healthier with the introduction of a year-long Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program includes 26 learning sessions focused on preventing pre-diabetic participants and those with a family history of diabetes from developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

“This program is focused on healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthier, reducing stress and getting more physical activity,” says Rebecca Heitkam, director of Emory Saint Joseph’s congregational health ministries and faith community nursing program. “The DPP also helps with the prevention of heart disease, obesity-related conditions and some forms of cancer. Our objective is to teach new habits and skills that could improve the health of anyone who commits to the goals.”

At the beginning of the program, participants are screened for blood pressure, blood sugar levels, weight and waist circumference, in order to track their progress. Each week, a certified Lifestyle Coach (most often a Faith Community Nurse) facilitates the session, and participants utilize class materials and notebooks to log food choices and track weight and exercise.

CDC research showed that out of 3,234 participants with pre-diabetes in the national program, 58% of them never went on to develop type 2 diabetes. During the course of program, participants lost an average of 5-7 percent of their body weight, and after 10 years, research found that those who completed the DPP were one-third less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Emory Saint Joseph’s piloted the DPP three months ago for its own employees, and participants were able to get a head start on weight loss and health changes before the holidays. This month, Emory University Hospital Midtown is offering the DPP to their employees, and other Emory Healthcare hospitals will roll out the program in the coming months. The dReam Center Church of Atlanta, a 5,000-plus member congregation, recently became the first of several churches in the region to offer the program.

The DPP is a new component of the faith community nursing program, which was developed by Heitkam, for Emory Healthcare last spring, as a way of combining nursing knowledge with spiritual care. According to Heitkam, the program aims to improve access to care in the community, expand awareness of healthy behaviors, provide educational programs and focus on preventive care and disease management.

Heitkam, along with CaTiffaney Banks (program manager for the DPP initiative) and Terri Burnham (coordinator for the Faith Community Nurse Navigation initiative) believe the Diabetes Prevention Program will do much to expand Emory Saint Joseph’s Sisters of Mercy mission across the healthcare system and into the community.

For more information about this program, please contact Rebecca Heitkam at

Recent News