Education Empowers

Prevention Program Helps Those at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes


Diabetes is a public health problem that many Americans struggle with. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes, or 9.4 percent of the population. About 7.2 million of those individuals have not even been diagnosed. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., with nearly 80,000 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death and another quarter-million listing diabetes as a contributing factor. It is thought that diabetes is underreported as a cause of death in many cases. Despite these grim statistics, local healthcare professionals are tackling the problem early by providing individuals at risk of developing diabetes with the knowledge and support to protect their health.

BayCare and Winter Haven Hospital have established the Diabetes Prevention Program to educate those at risk for diabetes in the lifestyle changes they need to make to preserve their health. The first class recently graduated, and the 2020 class will be starting soon. We talked to Tara Fleeman, an RN and certified diabetes educator who leads the classes, and Pat Miller, a graduate of the program, to learn more about how this innovative class is helping people take control of their health.

The program is geared toward helping people delay or prevent diabetes through education and support. Participants have not been diagnosed with the disease itself, but they may have a diagnosis of prediabetes. In order to be admitted to the program, participants must have been referred by their doctor or score high enough on a targeted questionnaire. The questionnaire considers things such as age, weight, physical activity, family history, and other risk factors. 

Tara Fleeman is the Lifestyle Coach for the program. She has been with BayCare for five years, the past two at Winter Haven Hospital. Her responsibilities include leading the meetings and facilitating dialogue amongst the participants. She introduces concepts and information to the group and answers their questions. Fleeman believes this program is important because, as she says, “Most of the patients go unnoticed when they are borderline diabetic.” The program helps to fill in that gap to help those at risk avoid developing the disease.

“The program is very rewarding,” Fleeman says. “It’s a yearlong program where you learn how to eat, you learn different ways to exercise, you learn more about diabetes, and it helps to prevent diabetes.” The program has been well-received by the participants. One graduate was proud to report that she had lost 40 pounds over the course of the program. She attributed her success to the supportive nature of the group interactions. Other patients concurred that the group dynamic was very beneficial. 

There is no limit on the number of participants who can take part in the class, and the inaugural class was comprised of four individuals. The class uses a book, and there are 26 hour-long sessions. For the first six months, the class meets weekly. After that, it meets once a month for the remainder of the program. 

Pat Miller is one of the recent graduates of the program. She is the Department Secretary for Cardiac Rehab at Winter Haven Hospital. She was admitted to the Diabetes Prevention Program based on her score on the questionnaire. Miller met several of the criteria for the program, including the risk associated with her age. Diabetes affects about 12 million people over the age of 65, or 25.2 percent of the senior population, so as we age our risk of diabetes becomes greater. 

“The support was incredible,” details Miller, “not only the support of the instructor, but also the support of the other participants. The education is also of huge value to the participants. Even things that we already think we know, it reinforces.” 

One lesson that really stuck with Miller was the concept of “fitness breaks.” That doesn’t mean you should take a break from fitness, but rather for fitness. It means you should make the effort to not be stagnant. Get up from your desk and walk around, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Setting a timer on your phone can help you remember to take these necessary breaks. 

The lessons on measurement and portion control also resonated with Miller. Portion control can be somewhat counterintuitive, but is so important for diabetes management and prevention. For example, a banana is actually two portions, rather than one. The biggest take-away for Miller was the idea that she doesn’t have to deprive herself, just to use moderation instead. Miller was able to incorporate these lessons into her day-to-day life. She strongly recommends the program , saying “If you qualify for the program, it is well worth the time spent. The support you get from the other participants and the instructors, and the materials you are given each session to take home and use as a resource is well worth it.”

The DPP is in the preliminary stages of being covered by insurance, so for now, it is being offered free of charge to accepted participants. The goal is to have the program recognized so that it can be billed to insurance. If you are interested in learning more about diabetes or taking part in the Diabetes Prevention Program, you can visit the Winter Haven Hospital Center for Diabetes Education. You can also call BayCare’s Center for Diabetes and Nutrition Education at Winter Haven Hospital, 863-297-1709.

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