Groups team to battle La. diabetes epidemic

Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 8, 2014

Diabetes and prediabetes have reached epidemic proportions in Louisiana and throughout the country, affecting quality of life, productivity and health care spending.

Less than 10 percent of those with prediabetes even know they have it. Without intervention, many people with prediabetes — which means higher than normal blood sugar — will progress to type 2 diabetes.

There is a practical solution to this problem that is working right here in our community.

UnitedHealthcare and the YMCA have teamed up on the Diabetes Prevention Program, the first of its kind in the Greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge area, which addresses the link between diabetes and obesity by helping overweight people with prediabetes return to a healthier weight and help avoid diabetes.

Program participants in New Orleans and surrounding parishes are seeing success in just the first 18 months.

A large employer in Luling was able to help shift workers evaluate their lifestyles and recognize where they needed to change their health behaviors.

Based on program recommendations such as calculating a daily fat gram goal and recognizing the importance of choosing low-fat foods to stay within their goals, they now bring their lunch or choose healthier options for lunch and snacks vs. getting higher-fat snacks and sugary drinks from the vending machine.

They also have increased their physical activity by 100 percent.

And there are individual success stories.

A woman in her 50s lost more than 30 pounds and saw her health greatly improve; a mom who lost 40 pounds and changed her lifestyle as well as her daughter’s.

If you are 18 or older, think you might have prediabetes and would like to participate in the Diabetes Prevention Program at your local YMCA, we encourage you to visit your health care provider, who can do a blood test to find out if you have prediabetes or diabetes.

If you are found to be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, you are eligible to attend the 12-month program, where you learn about proper nutrition and how to become more active.

We also offer participants a free three-month family membership so you and your family can reap the many benefits the YMCA offers to encourage a healthy lifestyle. A direct correlation has been shown that this program may also improve workplace performance, reduce sick days and decrease employers’ health care costs.

With more than 10 percent of Louisianans having diabetes, compared with just over nine percent nationally, the onus is on each of us to help ourselves and one another take the first steps to helping curb Louisiana’s diabetes epidemic.

Glen J. Golemi, president and CEO, UnitedHealthcare-Gulf States Region and Kayne Daigle, diabetes prevention program director for the YMCA of Greater New Orleans and The YMCA of the Capital Area.