Patients in need get free pass for YMCA diabetes-prevention help

Sara Berg, MS , News Editor

About 575,000 people in Louisiana have been diagnosed with diabetes, which accounts for 15.3% of the adult population, according to the American Diabetes Association. With such a high concentration of people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, leaders at CareSouth, a federally qualified health center in Louisiana, knew they needed to improve the quality of life for patients through prevention.

CareSouth, which serves Baton Rouge, Donaldsonville and Plaquemine, Louisiana, launched its diabetes prevention strategy in 2018 after working with experts at the AMA. Together, they developed an approach to lifestyle change that allows patients with prediabetes a free pass to participate in the YMCA of Capital Area’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) lifestyle change program.

The AMA’s Diabetes Prevention Guide supports physicians and health care organizations in defining and implementing evidence-based diabetes prevention strategies. This comprehensive and customized approach helps clinical practices and health care organizations identify patients with prediabetes and manage the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, including referring patients at risk to a National DPP lifestyle change program based on their individual needs.

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“We had several conversations with the AMA exploring what the options were for our organization as well as the patients we serve,” said Kabrina Smith, chief of quality performance and improvement at CareSouth. “From there, we just knew that diabetes was a condition that we were focused on—we had a population that had that condition—and we just wanted to help with the quality of life for that patient population.”

Here is how CareSouth ensured patients with prediabetes successfully joined and participated in the YMCA’s National DPP lifestyle change program.

To help inform the entire care team, CareSouth held a meeting and presented information about the National DPP lifestyle change program and the referral process. After the meeting, the quality improvement coordinator followed up with each team to provide re-education and engagement on the process. The initial plan was to seek referrals from early-adopter physicians and care teams, but enthusiasm was broad among the doctors attending the meeting.

A care coordinator at CareSouth took a different approach to getting patients with prediabetes enrolled in the National DPP lifestyle change program. Because she has diabetes, the coordinator could share her personal story with patients. The coordinator “really talks about her personal experience,” said Smith.

Even though she was not asked to share her journey, the coordinator’s use of her personal story has helped others decide to take part in the YMCA’s National DPP lifestyle change program.

“It wasn’t a scare tactic—it was just a conversation about her personal experience,” Smith said.

Once enrolled in the YMCA’s National DPP lifestyle change program, CareSouth’s patients met as a cohort. This allowed patients to participate together, which facilitates increased interaction and support among each other.

“Patients have formed a bond and have been able to communicate and help one another,” said Smith. “The groups coming together and helping one another is a different message to send about the program.”

Through these bonds, individuals remained engaged in the program by exercising together, which has helped them shed pounds

Next steps for CareSouth include re-evaluation of their budget to see how they can continue to work with the YMCA. Smith hopes to “reach out to the YMCA, and we can negotiate on a discounted membership rate that we could just supplement for those patients that we think will continue with the program.”