In locations throughout the country, the American Medical Association is partnering with the YMCA to increase the number of physicians screening for prediabetes and referring at-risk patients to local diabetes prevention programs.

Currently, there are four pilot sites--Indianapolis, Ind., Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., Venice, Fla., and Wilmington, Del. A fifth location will be announced in the coming weeks. As part of the pilot program, physicians agree to screen patients for prediabetes and refer eligible patients to participate in the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program. It is modeled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Diabetes Prevention Program that provides participants with 16 weeks of education on healthy eating and physical activity from a trained lifestyle coach as well as peer and goal-setting support.

Following the initial sessions, participants meet monthly for up to a year to monitor their progress. The program is based on research funded by the National Institutes of Health which has shown, among adults with prediabetes, a 58 percent reduction in the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, and a 71 percent reduction in new cases among those over age 60.

Type 2 diabetes is “one of the key drivers of soaring healthcare costs” and the AMA is “partnering with YMCA branches in southwest Florida and elsewhere to improve health outcomes of local residents through better prevention, thereby contributing to reduced healthcare costs for this disease,” said Robert M. Wah, M.D., AMA president, in a written statement.

In the Venice area, an estimated 35 percent of the adult population has prediabetes. Individuals with prediabetes have higher than normal blood glucose levels but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. However, those with prediabetes are at greater risk for heart disease and stroke, and are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, unless they take steps to prevent or delay its onset by making important lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and moderate weight loss.

Last year, participants of the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program offered through the SKY Family YMCA of southwest Florida saw an average weight loss of five percent, which significantly reduced their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. To date, more than 375 participants have completed the program in the Venice area.

Physician referral is not a requirement to participate in the YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program--any adult with prediabetes can participate. Still, AMA is working to increase the number of patients who benefit from proven diabetes prevention programs--like the one offered in Venice--by raising awareness and closing the gaps that exist in getting patients enrolled in communities across the country.

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