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UnitedHealth, YMCA, local pharmacies team up for diabetes prevention

UnitedHealthcare, area YMCAs and local pharmacies have announced they will partner to launch the "NOT ME" diabetes prevention program of the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA), an employer- and community-based initiative aimed at diabetes prevention.

Part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program is a 16-session lifestyle intervention conducted in a group setting through local YMCAs intended to help people with prediabetes and others at risk, prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes through healthier eating, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes.

[See also: High cost of obesity taking toll on America; WellDoc's new diabetes tool targets home management]

The "NOT ME" program launched by UnitedHealth, the Ys and area pharmacies focuses on North Texas and includes the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than 11 percent of the state's adult population has diabetes and figures from the American Diabetes Association estimates costs to the state amount to more than $12.5 billion annually.

Diabetes cost the United States an estimated $194 billion in 2010. If current trends continue, more than half of all Americans will have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020, according to an analysis from the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, and will account for an estimated 10 percent of total healthcare spending, or almost $500 billion.

"Diabetes is taking a devastating toll on the children, families and communities of North Texas, but we have a program that is proven to help prevent the disease," said Scott Flannery, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual in North Texas in a press release. "The good news is that type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. It is the small lifestyle decisions we make every day that make the biggest impact. The introduction of DPCA programs provides an opportunity for Dallas/Fort Worth residents to take control of their own health and tackle this disease."

According to UnitedHealth, the NOT ME program it is helping to sponsor marks the first time a health plan is paying for evidence-based diabetes prevention and working actively with pharmacists to help people with their diabetes management programs. The DPCA, which runs the program, was founded in 2010 by UnitedHealth Group, the YMCA and Walgreens.

"Type 2 diabetes is an irreversible diagnosis, but a person can prevent or delay the disease before it develops," said Gordon Echtenkamp, president and CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas in a prepeared statement. "The Y has the reach and the roots in North Texas, and the experience to tackle this problem through community-based intervention, reaching people through their friends and family at the Y. There are nearly 2,700 Y branches across the USA, and 57 percent of our nation's households are located within three miles of a YMCA branch. The Y is in a unique position to bring this community-based solution to thousands of people in the North Texas area and to millions of people across the country."

The NOT ME program uses the findings of a clinical trial of the Diabetes Prevention Program the was led by the NIH with support from the CDC. The trial showed that lifestyle changes for people with prediabetes, which include modest weight reduction, can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by 58 percent.

The program also provides people with diabetes access to trained pharmacists who can provide personalized coaching and counseling aimed at improving adherence to treatment regimens. The goal of the counseling for current diabetes patients is to improve blood glucose control – every percentage point drop in HbA1c levels, a commonly used blood glucose marker, reduces by 40 percent the risk of developing complications from diabetes such as nerve disease, blindness, limb amputations and heart disease.

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