U’s Diabetes Prevention Program Shows Great Potential

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(Courtesy of University of Utah Department of Physical Therapy)
(Courtesy of University of Utah Department of Physical Therapy)
(Courtesy of University of Utah Department of Physical Therapy)

One in three people in this country are at risk of type 2 diabetes or have pre-diabetes, and the Center for Disease Control has launched a prevention program to fight this trend.

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Sheldon Smith, manager of the program, helps run the collaborative effort between the U’s Health Sciences and the College of Health. It includes a year-long course with 22 one-hour lectures led by U student lifestyle coaches. Prevention classes began in January and Smith hopes to maintain steady enrollment for faculty, staff and their family members.

“Since we have about 30,000 employees at the U, that could represent about 10,000 people who are pre-diabetic. That’s a lot of people we can potentially help,” Smith said.

Tim Graham, medical director of the Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center, sees this program as a pilot for future growth. He helped develop and oversee the program and hopes to see the classes offered across the state. If done, it will be the first state-wide network of its kind.

“I think we will be the first in the country, and we’re really proud of that,” he said.

Although the course is just under way, Smith said the program has already seen great success. The collective weight loss of the first group of 22 students was 95 pounds within two months.

Allyson Tanner, communication services manager for the U Hospital, participates in the program and has seen major improvements in her life. In just six weeks, Tanner lost 13 pounds and had a positive influence on her husband, who also joined.

“[I love] going to class, getting the information from the student instructors, having the group support and knowing that they are going through the same battle I am to get healthy,” she said.

Tanner was drawn by the yearlong commitment of the program and convenience of the campus location at the ANNEX and Dumke Health Professions buildings. Although aware of her poor health before the pre-program exam, she was shocked when she discovered how close she was to a diabetes diagnosis.

“I realized it was a lot worse than I thought it was,” she said. “If I didn’t make some drastic changes in my health quickly, it would definitely have led to diabetes.”

The Diabetes Prevention Program is hoping to follow each participant for 10 years to see if this class makes a difference in their diabetes prevention and overall health.

“I think if we can keep getting support from the university and being available for our employees, this will take off,” Smith said.

The program is funded by the University Hospitals and Clinics, the Sorenson Foundation and the Department of Health. Smith is hoping to bring awareness to all people around the community by giving them necessary knowledge and resources which include a simple questionnaire to test your pre-diabetic risks. Common factors include body weight, age and family history of diabetes as well as tingling or numb hands and feet.

“If we can make it available to [employees] with the help from the university,” Smith said, “then I think we are going to have a healthier university and healthier work staff.”

c.webber@chronicle.utah.edu

@carolyn_webber

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