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UC Diabetes Prevention Program: A systemwide success

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Faculty and staff at all 10 UC campuses can now access the UC Diabetes Prevention Program (UC DPP). Part of the Global Food Initiative’s Healthy Campus Network (HCN), this free year-long program follows the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Diabetes Program.

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The UC DPP was first piloted at UCLA in 2016. In just two years, UCLA participants reported significant weight loss and a greater sense of well-being. News of these positive results spread throughout the UC system; in 2018, UC Health earmarked funding to implement it systemwide. 

“It’s exciting to see the highest levels of the UC organization take such a vested interest in faculty and staff and their health and well-being,” says Kelly Shedd, program director, Fitness and Wellness, UCLA Recreation. “That sense of value — acknowledging that their lives matter — is fantastic and meaningful to staff.”

Local efforts, systemwide knowledge

With the support of the Semel Healthy Campus Initiative and David Geffen School of Medicine faculty members Tannaz Moin, Sam Skootsky, Carol Mangione and Wendelin Slusser, Shedd was instrumental in helping UCLA achieve full program recognition by the CDC. Gaining CDC recognition required meeting rigorous performance criteria and quality standards, including an average weight loss of at least 5% among participants.

Today, Shedd is one of a team leading the UC Coordinating DPP Center at UCLA. As the headquarters of the UC DPP’s systemwide efforts, Coordinating Center staff ensure that all locations follow program guidelines. They also draw upon their own experience to offer guidance and strategies for success.

Since obtaining UC Health funding in 2018 and additional support from Systemwide Human Resources starting in 2019, the systemwide DPP program has had more than 500 participants. UCLA alone has had more than 100 participants, many of whom have shared many positive testimonials. 

“I have been keeping food records consistently and have been exercising 150 minutes or more a week since the program started,” wrote one participant. “I have lost 15 pounds — 7% of my starting weight — and am fitting back into clothes I couldn’t wear just 10 weeks ago! I appreciate the other participants’ input and gentle, non-judgmental support.”

Another shared: “The information and support I received from the sessions I attended remain with me. I had my six-month follow-up A1C blood glucose test yesterday, and am out of the prediabetes stage. I feel terrific about it and hope to continue to increase exercise and lose my excess weight!”

When each cohort concludes, Shedd encourages participants to view their positive experiences as a starting point — and directs them to a multitude of additional healthy living resources that UCLA provides on campus.

She also leverages the experience of past participants to encourage current attendees. “I invite people who have completed the program to give testimonials at the beginning of each cohort. It’s inspiring for those who are just starting out to hear from someone who has lost 40 pounds through the program — and kept it off — and to see how that’s positively impacted his work, family life and overall sense of well-being.” 

Results in Riverside

“UC Riverside is committed to improving the health and well-being of staff, faculty and students,” says Wellness Program Coordinator Julie Chobdee. “The UC DPP provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to make and sustain behavior change, reduce health risks and benefit from group support and expert lifestyle coaches to make changes that can last a lifetime.” 

Since introducing the UC DPP, UC Riverside survey results have demonstrated improved confidence in participants’ ability to positively impact their health (86%), more knowledge about diabetes and risk factors (86%), more frequent physical activity (82%) and choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods (77%). 

Participants shared stories of being taken off diabetes medication, losing weight and forming strong bonds with their coaches and cohorts. “My DPP coaches changed my life,” reported one Riverside participant. “They were kind, patient and worked with my physical and mental needs to help me make positive changes. My doctor told me that programs like this often have long waitlists and can be very expensive. I feel fortunate that UC Riverside offers this program at no cost to employees.”

Integration and collaboration

When Justin Wang, human resources wellness analyst at UC Irvine Health and Health Sciences, heard about the possibility of bringing the UC DPP to UC Irvine, he was immediately on board. In addition to supporting staff well-being and safety, he realized that it was an excellent opportunity to partner with colleagues within the Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care space (outpatient care). Through these internal partnerships, Wang empowered skilled UC Irvine Health coaches to lead DPP cohorts both for UC Irvine Health and campus staff. 

The first three cohorts launched in February 2019, and by popular demand, an additional three cohorts were initiated in May 2019. The results have been encouraging: Participants’ pre-diabetes measures have gone drastically down and they are maintaining their weight. In 2020, Wang plans to host six cohorts and hopes to make the program more robust by adding guest speakers through vendor partnerships. He is also working with UC Irvine’s Student Health team around the possibility of extending the DPP to undergraduate and graduate students once the program gains CDC recognition in early 2020.

“This has been a great partnership across the UC system: UC Health, UC Irvine Human Resources, UC Irvine Health Ambulatory Care and health plan partners. It’s empowering to see our UC Irvine health coaches mentor their peers throughout their year-long journey,” Wang says.  

Dietitian Linda W. Adams of UC Davis Occupational Health Services also has collaboration top of mind. For 2020 cohorts, she has been working to build cross-campus relationships to enhance the program’s effectiveness and reach. At least one upcoming cohort will be a pilot with the campus’ student housing and dining services. Thanks to Adams’ outreach, both divisions will pay employees for the time they spend attending DPP sessions — an effort to boost participation and retention.

And, in January, the UC DPP will also become a teaching opportunity for UC Davis students. Adams is currently training six students to be lifestyle coaches through the American Society of Diabetes Educators. Under her supervision, the students will lead the cohorts and follow participants’ progress for half a year. “It’s amazing to see how dedicated these students are around the idea of building community and teamwork,” she says. 

Adams has also worked to connect past program participants through a support group, where they can continue to measure progress and celebrate successes. “They find a lot of value in it,” she says, “and that makes my work very meaningful.” 

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