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ICPD classes help people avoid diabetes diagnosis

University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Maria Paez Sievert speaks about pre-diabetic diets Friday in a class hosted at the Worthington Area YMCA. The class is part of the “I Can Prevent Diabetes!” (ICPD) program, which serves to educate and inspire individuals identified as pre-diabetic to improve their overall health profile before it’s too late. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Because 8.2 percent of adults in Nobles County live with a diabetes diagnosis — a full two percent more than the state average of 6.1 percent — finding the means to keep that statistic from increasing is of paramount concern to public health workers.

“This rise is an alarming trend throughout the nation, as an estimated one in three individuals are pre-diabetic, with 90 percent of those affected unaware that they are at risk for developing diabetes,” said Casey Borgen, a public health nurse with Nobles County Community Service’s Community Wellness Partners.

Borgen works as part of a team to tackle diabetes prevention in the county, combining efforts with dietitian Darlene DeWitt and University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed educators and lifestyle coaches Leticia Rodriguez and Maria Paez Sievert. Together, they strive via the “I Can Prevent Diabetes!” (ICPD) program to educate and inspire individuals identified as pre-diabetic to improve their overall health profile before it’s too late.

ICPD began operating locally in 2015, when the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) granted $1,600 to the cause for necessary supplies.

This year, the WRHCF board has given $1,000 to ICPD, with the funds designated to supplement the costs of providing personal trainers from the Worthington Area YMCA in guiding participants through basic age- and health-appropriate workouts.

“The WRHCF is happy to help address this problem because diabetes is prevalent in our area and ICPD is an effective program,” said Jeff Rotert, WRHCF executive director.

ICPD’s coordinators are pleased the WRHCF sees the value it brings.

“Getting this assistance is a tremendous help to participants,” assured Rodriguez. “Having a personal trainer teach them how to get started and ease into an exercise program is great.”

Since its inception, ICPD has aided 38 people who have lost a collective 211 pounds.

“Participants averaged 92 minutes of physical activity per week by the end of the program, which is a vast improvement from the ‘no activity’ level that the majority reported upon starting ICPD,” said Borgen.

ICPD involves an initial 16-week course that continues at a less intensive level for another eight months.

“The first hour of each session is focused on nutrition education,” said Rodriguez, adding that information about portion size, label-reading and appropriate foods is included.

“After that, participants transition to 45 minutes of physical activity supervised by a personal trainer.”

DeWitt believes the program has succeeded because of its well-designed format.

“The benefit of ICPD is participants have the support they need for such a long period of time,” DeWitt said.

“Frequently, as a dietitian, I get just a short amount of time to meet with clients, but if they’re not supported in making the necessary lifestyle changes, they don’t necessarily stick. Meeting with the lifestyle coaches helps sustain their motivation and keeps them on track with the lifestyle changes until those changes are permanent.”

DeWitt points to a few traps into which many people fall as culprits on the path to Type 2 diabetes.

“People lack balance in their food choices, they rely too much on convenience foods, they don’t have the connection with food and cooking that used to exist and portions are generally too large,” listed DeWitt.

ICPD classes, which are free of charge to qualified participants, can enroll up to 19 members at a time, although organizers say classes of 15 are optimal.

Rodriguez explained that she and Sievert conduct screenings at various locations in Nobles County, working with Community Wellness Partners as well as both the Sanford and Avera clinics.

“We go to community education classes and to health fairs, too, and we gather information about potential participants’ blood glucose levels,” Rodriguez said, noting that responses to a diabetes risk questionnaire, family health history, height, weight and gender are also considered. “We want to get more referrals from clinics and doctors.”

At least half of the members in each ICPD class must be SNAP-eligible, Rodriguez clarified, and all participants must be tabbed as pre-diabetic and overweight.

The program aims to have participants lose five to seven percent of their body weight, Borgen said.

“Learning to balance physical activity with good nutrition is important,” Borgen added. “Having the physical activity component helps in that we know at least once a week the participants are active for 45 minutes to an hour with a trained instructor.”

Sievert has witnessed the transformation ICPD has effected in its participants.

“I see their lifestyle changes,” she confirmed. “For instance, one woman had a lot of health problems and when she first joined, she thought it [ICPD] was really hard.

“After a while, she started incorporating the physical activity, and as she learned more, her health improved, she cut down on her portion sizes, she quit having regular headaches and she started reading grocery labels,” Sievert continued.

“Now she has a YMCA membership and goes to every Zumba class she can; she is really happy, and it’s this program that has changed her life.”

Borgen emphasizes that the WRHCF grant, which allows ICPD to maintain the personal trainer aspect, is appreciated.

“Having a trainer present so the participants can see how to work out properly is a huge benefit,” said Borgen. “Some of these people have never set foot in a gym before, and when we look at the data, we see classes that had personal trainers tended to be engaged in the program longer and realized more lasting health benefits.”

Added Rodriguez, “It’s important that Worthington becomes aware of what a great contribution the WRHCF has made to this program.

“Along with that, and the partnership with Community Wellness Partners, this is a major team effort.”

Commended Rotert, “Anything that can be done to prevent diabetes is valuable because diabetes is such a common health issue.”