Healthwatch 16: Diabetes Prevention Program

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the number of Type 2 diabetes cases being diagnosed is alarming. The rate has tripled over the last 20 years.

Knowing that prevention is healthier and less expensive than treatment of diabetes, Geisinger Health System is partnering with the CDC to offer classes teaching people how not to become the next statistic.

It's a weekday at the Bloomsburg Public Library on Market Street, but upstairs this group isn't browsing through the books. This is a meeting of a Diabetes Prevention Program, sponsored by Geisinger Health System.

"Our diabetes prevention program is really designed as an evidence-based program that concentrates on lifestyle changes to, hopefully, prevent Type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses," said Eileen Evert, senior director of health and wellness.

Evert says the program was created for those who've been deemed prediabetic, but it's open to anyone who is interested, of any age. Since 2016, she says 500 people have gone through the yearlong class.

"Statistics show if they complete the program, we're able to reduce the onset of Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. And those 60 years and older, it's a 71 percent reduction, according to the CDC," Evert said.

Right now, the program is available in 10 different counties, but wellness associate Autumn Albertson says they'll form a group anywhere there's a particular need or interest.

"That's the bread and butter of the program, the group discussions, having that support system to lean on each other for tips and tricks," Albertson said.

Each group meets weekly for the first six months, then monthly for the second phase.

Ted Benza recalled watching his wife battle diabetes.

"I know what my wife went through," Benza said. "Plus, it's in my family."

Ted is down 16 pounds since April.

Same for 81-year-old Connie Steltz of Danville.

"My mother had it, my grandmother, and my aunt. I felt I didn't want it, so I figured I had to do something about it," Steltz said.

Not only has she lost weight, but Connie also says in just a few months, her glucose levels are down, as is her blood pressure and cholesterol.

"I say go for it," she advised. "You need a group to work with.

Geisinger employees who are in the program have access to a community garden to provide fresh fruits and vegetables. The hope is to expand it so everyone in the program can use it.

The diabetes prevention program is free, and you don't have to be a Geisinger patient to take part. For more information, call 866-415-7138.

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