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Health Check: YMCA diabetes prevention program

Lilly Elliott works in child care at the Bayside YMCA in Barrington, but she also can be found in the gym working out.

This is something relatively new for her. Last year, she filled out a questionnaire at work as part of Diabetes Alert Day at the Y and was shocked to learn she was at risk for developing diabetes.

"I think the Y found out about 10 to 15 years ago that we did a great job with those who need us the least and a not-so-great job with those who need us the most," said Jim Berson, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Providence.

So about four years ago, they decided to develop a program aimed at preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes based on their answers on a questionnaire.

"We're not telling them that they have it. We're telling them just to be cautious," said Joni Bloom, YMCA healthy living coordinator.

And they recommend they consider taking part in a year-long program at the Y.

"And the goal of the program is to lose 7 percent of your body weight and become active 150 minutes a week," Bloom said.

For the first 16 weeks, participants, like Lilly, meet once a week.

"We give them support and we go through different skills that are needed and each week they make a goal," Bloom said.

"This has been happening at about 90 Ys across the country. At this point, nationally, we've had about 24,000 people go through the program and the average weight loss is 4.9 percent," Berson said. "It's an evidence-based program, actually came out Brown University many years ago. It's considered the gold standard in preventing diabetes."

Lilly just completed 16 weeks and will now meet once a month for the next 8 months for the maintenance arm of the program.

"It was just an easy-to-do program because we went step by step every week and got together and learned new tricks to help lower the fat content in our diet and increase exercise and it was a fun thing," Lilly said.

Fun and rewarding.

"I just went to the doctor's, and she said I looked the healthiest she's seen me look in a long time," Lilly said. "I feel much better. I have more energy. I feel better about myself."

To take part in the diabetes prevention program at the YMCA of Greater Providence, you need to be or become a member. You don't need to be a member to take the diabetes risk questionnaire.

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