UK starting to offer diabetes prevention program through local extension agents trained to deliver it; first one was successful

Downloadable chart explains diabetes prevention program used by University of Kentucky.

By Katie Pratt
University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky is helping prediabetic Kentuckians prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes through a collaboration between the UK Cooperative Extension Service and UK HealthCare’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

UK extension agents deliver the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program to people who have prediabetes or are at a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes and diabetes are big problems in Kentucky. According to the 2019 Kentucky Diabetes Report, 10 percent of Kentucky adults have been told by a medical professional that they have prediabetes, 12% have diabetes, and Kentucky has the nation’s fourth highest mortality rate from it.

The prevention program teaches evidence-based ways to make lifestyle changes to eat healthier, increase physical activity and improve coping mechanisms. The program includes weekly meetings for the first six months with the goal of losing 5% to 7% of body weight. The second six months has fewer meetings, as the focus turns to keeping the weight off.

People who successfully complete the year-long program lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 50%, research has shown.
The collaboration between Barnstable Brown and Extension began in Washington County, where it has been successful. Scott County is to be next.
In Washington County, 12 adult participants lost an average of 5.6% of body weight, and 75% met the weight-loss goals they set at the start of the program. Also, 100% of participants stayed in the program, and said they appreciated the information and the sharing of personal stories.
Zoom meetings allowed them to continue the sessions during the pandemic. It hit about halfway through the program, which began in September 2019.

Extension agent Cabrina Buckman

“The participants were so good about being flexible, and stuck with me,” said Cabrina Buckman, Washington County extension agent for family and consumer sciences, who led the program. “I tried to keep them engaged along the way by providing them with packets and newsletters. They enjoyed Zoom once they got the hang of it.”

Buckman added, “As a result of the program, individuals overcame certain nutrition-related obstacles including making healthier snack choices and buying less junk food for snacks. Participants shared they made healthy changes to their activity by walking, ordering walking sticks and being more active overall each day. Most importantly, participants shared that throughout the program they learned they were a work in progress and tried to have more patience with themselves.”

The Barnstable Brown center was already offering the Diabetes Prevention Program to patients on UK’s campus in Lexington.
“Partnering with Extension allows Barnstable Brown to increase our breadth and depth for DPP services across Kentucky,” said Laura Hieronymus, the center’s associate director of education and quality services. “This collaboration shows that extension agents can successfully deliver this program.”

In order to present the program, extension agents are trained as program lifestyle coaches. This training is coordinated through Barnstable Brown. The agents also receive support from UK specialists in family and consumer sciences.

“This program is incredibly effective at helping people reduce their diabetes risks, so we are excited that our extension agents have the opportunity to be trained through Barnstable Brown to offer it,” said Heather Norman-Burgdolf, assistant extension professor for food and nutrition in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

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