CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia will launch a national program for the hundreds of thousands of people at risk of developing diabetes, with a focus on intensive lifestyle coaching.
The National Diabetes Prevention Program is a yearlong program for those at high risk and those diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Participants will work with a lifestyle coach in a group setting to achieve weight loss and physical activity goals.
It will start with one-hour sessions once a week for 16 weeks, followed by six monthly sessions.
Gina Wood, director of diabetes control and prevention for the state Bureau for Public Health, said employees and volunteers with 13 organizations across the state have already completed training to become effective coaches.
It's unclear, however, when the programs will officially launch and how many people are likely to participate initially.
Diabetes can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.
Already, some 466,000 West Virginians — 26 percent of the state's population — have early stages of type 2 diabetes. Tens of thousands are believe to be undiagnosed.
Without lifestyle changes, the CDC estimates that as many as half of those with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
The new program is based on research led by the National Institutes of Health that found people can lose 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight with modest behavior changes.
Researchers also found that better nutrition and more exercise reduced the chances of developing diabetes by 58 percent. The risk was cut by 71 percent for people over 60.
West Virginia has a higher prevalence of diabetes than the rest of the nation. In 2010, nearly 12 percent, or more than 229,000 adults — had diabetes.
Wood says the disease could cost the state an estimated $3 billion by 2025.
"West Virginia really needs this program," she said. "Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. We can do this."
W.Va. program: http://www.wvdiabetes.org/
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.