Lifespan Community Health Institute

Diabetes Prevention Program

More than one-third of Rhode Islanders are prediabetic. Without making changes to their lifestyles, they will likely progress to type 2 diabetes.

What You Need to Know about Diabetes

Dino Messina, MD, PhD, FACP, medical director of the Center for Primary Care at Rhode Island Hospital, has one message for anyone who is either prediabetic or already diagnosed with diabetes.

“It’s to let them know that they are at risk of dying from a heart attack,” he said. “When I become concerned about a patient’s diabetes, my primary goal is to avoid that terrible outcome. It’s important to follow the guidelines that include significant lifestyle modifications as a commonsense approach to this scourge that we have in our country.”

Dr. Messina, who has been seeing patients for more than 25 years, knows that diabetes can have a significant impact on a person’s health. In addition to its fatal risks, diabetes can result in blindness and kidney problems.

Dyan Sierra, a Portsmouth resident, learned she was on the cusp of becoming diabetic when her A1C test indicated a level of 5.8. The A1C test, also known as the hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c test, is a simple blood test that measures average blood sugar levels over the past three months. One of the commonly used tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes, it is also the main test to help you and your health care team manage your diabetes.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

The CDC recommends adults over the age of 45, and those under the age of 45 who are overweight and have one or more risk factors for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, get a baseline A1C test.

You are at risk if you:

  • Have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than three times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than nine pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)

Free Diabetes Prevention Program Improves the Way You Live

The free Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at the Lifespan Community Health Institute is an evidence-based program that teaches people at risk for developing diabetes how to implement a healthy lifestyle with the goal of preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. 

A Free, Evidence-Based Diabetes Prevention Program Can Help

For Dyan, it was time for a lifestyle change. She enrolled in the free Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at the Lifespan Community Health Institute. It is an evidence-based program that teaches people at risk for developing diabetes how to implement a healthy lifestyle with the goal of preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. The program is available in English and Spanish and has been offered virtually.

“I felt this incredible sense of support that you don’t feel when you try to do something on your own,” Dyan said, reflecting on her success with the program. She enrolled during the pandemic when the program was offered virtually. “Technology made it possible through the pandemic for me to achieve my goals while being at home.”

Alexandra Morelli, MPA, CCHW, a DPP lifestyle coach, has seen how the program changes people’s lives. “Because it is a yearlong program, the changes are going to be very slow and gradual and that’s what makes this program work,” she noted. “By making those small changes, it is more sustainable.”

A Highly Individualized and Unique Program

Physicians and clinical experts know that one size does not fit all, which is why the DPP program is designed to include both group support and individual attention. Safiya Naidjate, PharmD, CDCES, pharmacist, certified diabetes educator, Women’s Medicine Collaborative, explained how that is achieved. “As a certified diabetes educator, I work one-on-one with patients to create a highly individualized and unique diabetes therapy management for that individual.”

Her plan covers three important parts that each play a critical role in diabetes management:

  1. Ways to develop a healthy diet, such as increasing vegetables and plant-based foods, avoiding high carbohydrate foods, reducing refined sugars, or processed food, and eating certain foods in moderation. 
  2. Physical activity, which is important to burn off all that extra sugar that one might be carrying.
  3. Medication, which depends on where a patient may be in their journey through diabetes.

Diabetes Prevention Program

The free Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at the Lifespan Community Health Institute is an evidence-based program that teaches people at risk for developing diabetes how to implement a healthy lifestyle with the goal of preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. The program is available in English and Spanish and has been offered virtually.

What Participants Will Receive from the Program

The program aims to have participants achieve weight loss of just five to seven percent of their body weight. Specifically, participants learn: 

  • How to fit exercise into their daily routine to lose weight 
  • Ways to eat a healthy diet by adding more fruits and vegetables
  • How to avoid diabetes through the CDC-approved curriculum 

Patients receive: 

  • Weekly one-hour sessions for at least 16 weeks (within a six-month period) with a trained lifestyle coach to guide and encourage them
  • Six months of one-hour follow-up sessions with the lifestyle coach to help maintain the healthy lifestyle behaviors
  • Peer support in a group format from other participants with the same goals
  • Healthy recipes to prepare at home
  • Childcare and transportation assistance if needed (pending funding availability)
  • Incentives to recognize and reward progress 

Who Qualifies for the Program?

Participants must: 

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be overweight: Have a body mass index of 25 or higher (23 or higher if Asian)
  • Have no previous diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes 
  • Meet one of the following criteria: 
    • Have a blood test result in the prediabetes range within the past year, or
    • Hemoglobin A1C: 5.7%–6.4%, or 
    • Fasting plasma glucose: 100–125 mg/dL, or 
    • Two-hour plasma glucose (after a 75 mg glucose load): 140–199 mg/ dL, or
    • Be previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes

How to Register

For more information about the Diabetes Prevention Program or to register, call Ana Almeida-DoRosario, 401-444-8069, or email aalmeidadorosario@lifespan.org.