On March 23, The New York Times published an article about Medicare combating the diabetes epidemic that plagues our country by proposing a plan to cover the cost of lifestyle change programs in which trained coaches would coach consumers on healthier eating habits and increased physical activity as ways to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Louisiana has one of the highest mortality rates due to diabetes in the country. More than 10 percent of the adult population in Louisiana is living with diabetes, and more than 1 million others are living with prediabetes. The state spends $1.6 billion annually in direct medical costs related to diabetes.

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, based on the National Institute of Health’s evidence-based program, is one of the lifestyle change programs referenced by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burrow.

The program is delivered through the YMCA of Greater New Orleans, the YMCA of Baton Rouge and in YMCAs in 44 other states across the country. Research shows that lifestyle change programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program have the ability to reduce the onset of Type 2 Diabetes by 71 percent in adults 60 or over.

Research shows that adequate preventive health care can play a major role in reducing the incidence of chronic disease. Current health care options have limited capacity to offer intensive behavioral intervention programs. Community-based organizations are on the forefront of the changing medical culture that combines public, private, government and nonprofit entities to deliver quality preventive health care. Community-based organizations such as the Y can meet the individual and family needs of their communities and decrease the preventive healthcare gap.

Locally and nationally, we are not only helping to prevent the onset of new cases of Type 2 diabetes, we are changing the way healthcare is delivered. We are making our communities healthier ones to live in, and we are on the threshold of something big here.

Erica Halpern

YMCA Diabetes Prevention program director

New Orleans