Temple Health's Diabetes Prevent Program aims to slow the rising tide of diabetes in Philadelphia, which has the highest rate of America's 10 largest cities.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Philadelphia has the highest diabetes rate of America's 10 biggest cities, with a rate that's doubled since 2002, according to the Department of Public Health.
Over 15% of adults over the age of 18 are diabetic, and one study found a 36% rate of uncontrolled high blood sugar among 18 to 54-year-olds.
But even if the disease runs in your family, developing it isn't inevitable, according to experts at Temple Health.
For nearly a decade, the Diabetes Prevention Program has helped those with prediabetes avoid Type 2 diabetes.
Edoris Lomax knows how devastating diabetes can be.
"My grandmother was an amputee. I've got siblings who aren't going to the doctor like they're supposed to," says Lomax.
She is the program coordinator for Temple Health's Diabetes Prevention program.
It coaches people with prediabetes through lifestyle changes so they don't develop Type 2 diabetes.
It is based on the CDC's very successful national program.
"There was almost a 70% reduction in progression to Type 2 diabetes," says Dr. Jonathan Anolik, a Temple Health endocrinologist.
For those who did develop it, the onset was delayed an average of four years.
Dr. Anolik says prediabetes is now a major problem.
"I was reading today, something saying that almost 100 million people in this country now have prediabetes," he says.
Risk factors for prediabetes include being overweight, having a fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125 or having a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes.
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome or who've had gestational diabetes are also at risk.
Dr. Anolik says addressing it early is a must.
"Some of the complications of diabetes occur in the prediabetes range as well. So people seem to be at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and perhaps even for retinopathy – eye problems," he notes.
Temple's yearlong program can be in person or virtual, enabling more people to take part.
There are weekly meetings for the first 6 months, then 2 meetings a month for the remaining months.
Some sessions focus on making healthier food choices.
"Monitoring your fat grams, your calories. We have a topic where we talk about portion control. We talk about eating from the food groups," says Lomax
Other sessions focus on encouraging more physical activity, with students logging their activity time and level.
Lomax likes participants to chat with each other, and to form support networks.
"We have people get together, and they start their own little walking groups," she says
Lomax says field trips keep everyone engaged, especially when meetings are less frequent.
For example, "We're going to meet at the farmer's market this week instead of being in class," she says.
Or, "Okay, we're going to just read some food labels in the grocery store."
Lomax also has three Spanish-speaking lifestyle coaches.
And the program has had many successes. One man lost 75 pounds in a year.
But the biggest success is when people are no longer diagnosed as prediabetic.
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Temple Health's prevention program keeps prediabetes from becoming Type 2 diabetes – WPVI-TV