New York City's YMCA Expands Diabetes Prevention Program to the Big Apple to Tackle the City's Diabetes Crisis

March 22, 2011
  • Based on CDC and NIH Model, Innovative Community-Based Approach Proven to Reduce the Risk of Developing Diabetes by 58 Percent
  • Citywide Expansion Kicks off on Diabetes Alert Day with Y Community Forum on the “Preventable Epidemic,” Keynoted by Ursula E. Bauer, PhD, MPH, Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Tuesday, March 22

The YMCA of Greater New York today announced the New York City expansion of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program (YDPP), a 16-session group behavior change class that helps people at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes prevent the disease through healthy eating, increased activity and other positive lifestyle changes.

This unique public-private partnership is offered by the YMCA with support from UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is available to all New Yorkers who qualify for the program. The Y is currently forming groups of participants in Ys and other community sites across the five boroughs.

The New York City expansion of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program will bring this effective intervention program to help individual adults avoid the consequences of this devastating disease. Roughly 23 percent — or approximately 1.4 million — of adult New Yorkers have prediabetes according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). That means nearly one-quarter of New York adults are at grave risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but per national data, more than 90 percent may not be aware and therefore are not equipped to undertake steps to prevent the onset of an irreversible chronic illness.

The impact of type 2 diabetes is costly and significant, both in health outcomes as well as financial resources, reaching an estimated $6.6 billion in annual costs in NYC, according to NYC DOHMH. This chronic disease also underscores considerable health disparities in predominantly African-American, Latino and low-income communities, with rates of diabetes in NYC’s lowest income households twice that of NYC’s highest income households. In launching the YDPP in New York City, the YMCA is able to call upon its 160 years of experience on the ground in communities — through both its brick-and-mortar branches and established off-site program sites — and a sense of credibility and commitment around community health issues that is an ingrained part of the city’s fabric.

“Diabetes is an irreversible diagnosis, but it is not impossible to stop it before it develops,” said Jack Lund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. “Tackling New York City’s diabetes epidemic is a community problem that demands a community-based solution. The YMCA has the reach, experience and commitment to bring individuals back from the edge and onto a path toward healthier living. The expansion of the YDPP underscores the YMCA’s commitment to the health and well-being of New York City.”

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program uses a group-based lifestyle intervention designed especially for people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a group setting, a trained YMCA lifestyle coach helps participants to eat healthier, increase their physical activity and learn about other behavior modifications over the 16-session program. After the initial 16 core sessions, participants meet monthly for added support to help them maintain their progress. Beginning in fall 2010, the Y launched pilot groups at the Vanderbilt and Bedford-Stuyvesant branches, funded by support from CDC, UnitedHealth Group and the New York State Health Foundation.

The YMCA is forming groups of 8-15 participants to meet weekly at centralized locations across the five boroughs, including the Y’s 20 membership branches. Interested parties can determine program eligibility and register at The cost of the program is $325 per participant, but through grants from CDC and UnitedHealth Group, the YMCA is offering it for $40 for YMCA members and $80 for non-members. Financial assistance is available through the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, and no one with a referral from a health professional will be turned away from the program. UnitedHealth Group will actively encourage members of its health plans with prediabetes to enroll in the program, and the company will cover the full cost of the program for its eligible plan participants.

Last year, UnitedHealth Group — which is offering the YDPP program to other health insurers and plan sponsors — created the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA) to help address the nation’s growing diabetes epidemic. The Alliance marks the first time in the United States that a health plan is paying for evidence-based diabetes prevention and engaging pharmacists to support critical diabetes management programs. Currently, DPCA services are available at no out-of-pocket cost to participants enrolled in employer-provided health insurance plans through UnitedHealthcare and Medica.

“Diabetes is taking a devastating toll on our children, our families and our communities in New York City, but we have a program that is proven to help prevent the disease,” said Dr. Deneen Vojta, senior vice president, UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization and one of the key architects of the UnitedHealth Group Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance. “Diabetes is largely preventable — it is the small lifestyle decisions we make every day that make the biggest impact. These programs provide an opportunity for people in New York City to take control of their own health and tackle this disease.”

“We are pleased that New York City will be involved in the National Diabetes Prevention Program,” said Ursula E. Bauer, PhD, MPH, Director, CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Type 2 diabetes is a costly and debilitating problem across the United States. With leadership and investment at the national, state, and local level, we will be able to reach those individuals most at risk in communities across the nation and stop type 2 diabetes before it starts. This unique public-private partnership, which brings together government, health care and nongovernmental organizations, has both the reach and ambition to make an enormous impact curbing New York’s diabetes epidemic.”

Proven Program, Community Grounding, National Scale

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is based on the original U.S. Diabetes Prevention Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC, which showed that with lifestyle changes and 5- to 7-percent weight reduction, a person with prediabetes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine were able to replicate the successful results of the national Diabetes Prevention Program in conjunction with the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis in a group setting. YMCA of the USA, in partnership with CDC and UnitedHealth Group, has been rolling out the program in communities across the country since April 2010 and will continue to expand it nationally over the next year.

“This is the first study to demonstrate that the YMCA is a promising vehicle for the dissemination of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) lifestyle intervention into the community,” said Dr. Ronald T. Ackermann, Associate Professor of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine. “This program has the potential to serve as a model for the wide-scale dissemination of an evidence-based strategy to lower diabetes and cardiometabolic risk for millions of Americans with prediabetes.”

“Diabetes continues to rise in New York City, contributing to several leading causes of death and complications like kidney failure and foot infections requiring amputations,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “We now know that we can actually prevent high-risk people from getting diabetes if they improve their diets and become more physically active. Programs to help people eat healthier and exercise more can make a real difference. I congratulate the YMCA of Greater New York on their efforts to expand the Diabetes Prevention Program. With the support of UnitedHealth Group and the CDC, this new initiative has the potential to reduce the harm of diabetes among New Yorkers.”

Y Community Forum to Mark Launch

To mark the expansion of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program in New York City, the YMCA of Greater New York will host a Y Community Forum on Diabetes Prevention to raise awareness of the citywide diabetes epidemic and community-based solutions to prevent the disease.

Dr. Bauer will serve as keynote speaker at the event, “The Preventable Epidemic: Community-Based Solutions for Tackling Prediabetes,” which will be moderated by Matt Longjohn, MD, MPH, Senior Director of Chronic Disease Prevention, YMCA of the USA. The Forum will convene a cross-section of leaders to discuss citywide obstacles to type 2 diabetes prevention and how community-based approaches can help transform solutions from rhetoric to reality. The Forum panel will encompass physicians and health care leaders, government officials, insurers and employer groups, including:

The invite-only event will be held at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater at the West Side YMCA (5 West 63rd Street, New York City) on Tuesday, March 22, 2011, at 10 a.m. EST. The event was scheduled to coincide with the 23rd annual American Diabetes Association Alert Day, a one-day, wake-up call asking Americans to take a self-assessment for their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and encourage them to speak with their health care provider if they are at risk.

To learn more about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, visit

About the YMCA of Greater New York
The YMCA of Greater New York is, and always will be, dedicated to building healthy, confident, connected and secure children, adults, families and communities. With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y nurtures the potential of every youth and teen, improves New York City’s health and well-being and provides opportunities to give back and support neighbors. In scores of neighborhoods across the five boroughs and its camp upstate, the Y makes accessible the support and opportunities that empower more than 400,000 New Yorkers to learn, grow and thrive. Visit

About UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making health care work better. With headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through six operating businesses: UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, UnitedHealthcare Community & State, OptumHealth, Ingenix and Prescription Solutions. Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves more than 75 million people worldwide. Visit for more information.

About Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC’s Mission is to collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health — through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats. For more information visit  

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