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WATERLOO — Across the country, YMCAs are working to combat Type 2 diabetes before it starts. In Waterloo, the YMCA will launch its first prevention program in the Cedar Valley this month.

Diabetes is found in nearly 1 in 10 people nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, 86 million adults — or 1 in 3 — in the U.S have a condition called prediabetes, which means their blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered Type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years without intervention.

“We saw it was important to try to catch those people who are on the edge,” said Malinda Gudgeon, wellness director at the Black Hawk County YMCA. “When you’re still on the edge, you can turn it around. That was the kicker for us.”

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program uses a CDC-approved curriculum, which includes classroom instruction to help adults at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles.

“We found that there were no yearlong lifestyle change programs for people who are prediabetic in the area,” Gudgeon said.

The yearlong sessions include advice for eating healthier, increasing physical activity and losing weight to reduce chances of developing the disease. Participants in lifestyle intervention groups can reduce the number of new cases of Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent, and 71 percent in adults older than 60, according to the National Institutes of Health.

For the last 18 months, Gudgeon has been attending training sessions to become a certified lifestyle coach and program coordinator as well as providing essential training to YMCA staff.

“It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “Now, we just need the people.”

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Qualified individuals will be able to take the course regardless of their insurance status, and Medicare will cover the prevention program starting in January 2018, according to Gudgeon.

“I’m not concerned about filling classes at that time. This year it might be a little slow because people might have to pay out of pocket or their employer might not pay,” she said.

Cost for the program is $429 for the full year, including a yearlong membership to the Y for dedicated participants. Scholarship applications will be available for low-income people or families.

Gudgeon has been visiting with doctors and clinic directors in the area to raise awareness and encourage them to refer at-risk patients to the program. She’s also hoping employers will cover the cost of the program for employees who qualify.

“The cool thing about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is that it can take place at any work site, community center or any place that has a small conference/private room for 8 to 15 people,” Gudgeon said.

In Grundy County, the YMCA is working alongside the Black Hawk County YMCA to prepare and implement the program.

Crystal Petersen, health promotions manager and registered dietitian with Grundy County Memorial Hospital, is currently running a pilot diabetes prevention program and preparing to join with the upcoming Grundy Family YMCA program this year.

“In the meantime, we’re filling the gap,” Petersen said. “We had an opportunity to get started with teaching this class before the Y was up and going ... so we went ahead and started teaching it.

“There hasn’t been anything like it before ... often times, there are not places for people to go for interventions. This diabetes prevention program is really, really well-tested ... the CDC discovered a longer program is the right amount to actually affect change, sustainable change in a person’s lifestyle.”

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