In September 2018, the Health Federation embarked on a year-long journey with the Project HOME Stephen Klein Wellness Center to provide a Chronic Disease Collaborative (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). An evidence-based program, the DPP helps individuals with prediabetes make lifestyle changes to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and other serious conditions.
The group meets regularly, on Tuesdays, to work with their Lifestyle Coach, Marcy Witherspoon of the Health Federation. During sessions, they discuss challenges, share strategies for healthier living, and support one another on their journeys.
“Small decisions can lead to great, lasting changes in life. If you keep expecting that life-shattering change, it might not come. It’s the little decisions that we make that lead to fundamental change,” said program participant MaLique, who has been attending the program since day one.
Incremental lifestyle changes are key to the program. Participants pledge to do 150 minutes (or more) of physical activity per week and learn more about their food choices, what they’re putting into their bodies, and balanced diets.
The lifestyle changes enacted through the program aim to better the health of participants by leading them to lose five to seven percent of their weight within the first six months, and to maintain their new goal weight for the remainder of the year.
“The great impact this program has had on me is that I’m now more sensitive to and obedient about what I’m putting in my body. I’m cautious. Even if I do eat something like a donut, I only eat one, or I don’t eat all of it. I make sure my bread is 100% whole wheat. I check my labels. I changed my cooking oil. I try not to eat at night. And because of all of these changes, I’ve been feeling better, too,” shared another participant, known affectionately as Lamp.
Witherspoon, a social worker by trade and member of HFP’s training team, lives with Diabetes herself. Her ability to share her firsthand experiences and her own personal tips has allowed her to build strong connections with members of the group.
“This is more than a class for us,” shared Marguerite, another participant. “Marcy cares about us. She’s very knowledgeable. She has been the biggest part of this for me and for the rest of the group. I get a lot from this. Marcy stresses that, if we mess up, it’s okay to start over. It’s not a competition. Every meal is your first meal. So don’t beat yourself up about it.”
MaLique echoed Marguerite’s sentiments, “I am grateful for whoever compiled the information and for whoever conceptualized this program, but the most important part for me is that Marcy is my instructor. Without the safe space she provides, we would not be as successful as we are. She knows all of us personally and collectively and that helps with the class. You can see that she’s personally invested in us.”
Marcy’s leadership and impact is evident through the success of the group members. “I’m setting goals and sticking to them and watching what I eat. I’m shopping better and eating healthier,” noted Linda, another program regular. “This group – it makes you want to talk to other people about it. Having a good support group is important. This is good and I hope it keeps going because I think it will help a lot of people. I really do,” she stated.