‘The numbers were just incredible.’ Douglas County, Missouri launches diabetes prevention program to curb new cases

It is the first lifestyle program for the county started without federal funding.
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 11:03 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Knowing its residents were at a higher risk of developing diabetes due to high obesity and low exercise rates, the Douglas County Health Department in Ava, Missouri took matters into its own hands to help put a stop to new cases.

“There’s always that part of denial that says look I’m not at risk you know,” said Shirley Emerson of Douglas County, Missouri.

After years of working to develop healthy eating habits and battling weight gain, Emerson felt it was time to do something different.

So in an effort to prevent type two diabetes, she enrolled in the Prevent T2 program at the Douglas County Health Department.

“Having the structure of the program really helped me,” she says. “Every week, Sonya would ask what are your three goals?”

Sonya is Sonya Hodges. She’s the lead educator of the program Shirley met with weekly for a year.

“There’s just that camaraderie between the people,” said Hodges. “I always feel that they are the biggest help to each other.”

In the program, which is modeled after similar prevention programs by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, participants set weight and exercise goals, and learn about healthy eating.

The department says it launched the Prevent T2 program the first of its kind for the county, without federal funding in 2018.

The start was following a state meeting in Jefferson City, Missouri specifically about the state’s diabetes numbers.

“The numbers were just incredible,” says Hodges. Here’s what the statistics from the American Diabetes Association show:

Approximately 544,000 Missourians have diabetes. Another 139,000 don’t know it, and out of approximately 1.5 million adults around 504,00 are at risk of developing it.

Hodges says the Southeast region of the state which includes Douglas County is at a higher risk due to high obesity and low exercise rates.

“That was really where we started looking into what could we do about this because it’s a problem,” she says.

In the wake of the pandemic, Hodges says the program is still active. The department is now engaging participants through virtual meetings and on social media.

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