In the U.S., 29.1 million people — 9.3 percent of the population — are estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to have diabetes, the vast majority of people have type 2.

Add to this number a staggering 86 million American adults estimated by CDC to have prediabetes, in which glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. Having prediabetes puts a person at significant risk to develop type 2 diabetes if lifestyle changes aren’t made.

Preventing disease

After years of research in the U.S. and around the world, we know that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes and those diagnosed with prediabetes can take actions to prevent or delay the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

The type 2 diabetes prevention research conducted in the U.S. shows that this can be accomplished through a yearlong intensive lifestyle change program, called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). It encourages people to lose about 7 percent of their current weight and keeping these pounds off over the years, making healthy changes in eating habits and food choices, and increasing physical activity to at least 150 minutes of activity a week.

The DPP programs are facilitated by a trained lifestyle coach who can act as a diabetes educator. These programs are increasingly available in Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) programs, local YMCAs, community health centers and many more locations across the country. A database of these programs can be found on the CDC website.

“... over the next several years many more people at high risk for or with prediabetes will be eligible to enroll in a DPP program.”

Getting results

Since 2012, the American Association of Diabetes Educators has worked with the CDC to develop one of several models to implement the CDC’s National DPP. 

A recent study recapping results found that the average percentage weight loss for AADE DPP participants over a three-year period exceeded the CDC’s minimum requirements, a 5 percent weight loss. Particularly exciting is that over the next several years many more people at high risk for or with prediabetes will be eligible to enroll in a DPP program.

Every day more employers, health plans, community centers and other organizations are offering the program. And as of January 2018 Medicare will add the DPP as a benefit for eligible Medicare beneficiaries. Through continuing education and support we can work together to prevent type 2 diabetes.