The Department of Family and Community Health Sciences (FCHS) of Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) has launched “NJ Empower to Prevent,” its version of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This project is funded by a grant from the New Jersey Diabetes Prevention and Control Program of the New Jersey Department of Health. Nutrition educators from FCHS have developed a distance-learning delivery model for the CDC’s lifestyle change program. The research behind the NDPP has shown that modest weight loss of 5-7% body weight can reduce the risk for diabetes by up to 65% in high-risk adults.
According to the CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, diabetes affects more than 34 million adults in the U.S. Another 88 million, more than a third of the adult population, have prediabetes, an early stage of abnormal glucose regulation. Risk factors for diabetes include overweight and obesity, inactivity, increasing age, smoking, family history, and race and ethnicity.
Participants who are diverse in age, gender and ethnicities were recruited by Rutgers Cooperative Extension in an effort to address health disparities across the state.
“Initially, this project was to be piloted in Middlesex County, a diverse NJ county with a high prevalence of diabetes. As a result of the pandemic, we transformed the program to a 100% distance learning model, which allowed us to recruit participants across the state that mirror the diverse population of the initially targeted county,” said Shailja Mathur, FCHS educator and principal investigator on the grant.
In April, the first group of “NJ Empower to Prevent” participants begin their weekly one-hour classes that will run for a total of 16 weeks, using the Zoom online video platform. Topics include healthy eating, physical activity, stress management and motivation for behavior change. After the first four months, sessions will continue on a bi-weekly and monthly basis, for a total of 12 months. Group support and individual interaction with the FCHS educators, who are trained CDC lifestyle coaches, encourages participant engagement in the program, which has been linked to successful outcomes.
“Cooperative Extension is uniquely positioned in local New Jersey communities and across the country, to deliver evidence-based health education programs like the NDPP,” said Alexandra Grenci, FCHS educator and project coordinator on the grant. “We are working with other Extension professionals to develop a sustainable delivery model, which aims to increase access to the NDPP for many more people at risk of developing diabetes.”
The current “NJ Empower to Prevent” cohort will run through April 2022 and additional cohorts will also begin in 2022.