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News: First-Ever Online Platform to Fight Diabetes Epidemic
Today, approximately one third of American adults are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. On December 11, Omada Health, a Silicon Valley startup, responded to these staggering stats by launching Prevent, an online diabetes prevention program designed to help people develop healthier habits and avoid Type 2 diabetes.
Why It Matters
The CDC is rolling out diabetes prevention programs in community centers across the country. Meanwhile, Omada Health seeks to expand the country’s access to diabetes prevention with (the appropriately-named) Prevent, an online version of the DPP. Prevent is a 16-week program that places participants in small online groups composed of people with similar goals, and connects them to professional health coaches for individualized guidance. The program is the first based entirely on the standards set forth in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a study that found that comprehensive lifestyle changes involving diet and exercise could prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes — even more than medications. Prevent uses social connection, personalized coaching, and digital health tracking tools (among them: a pedometer for tracking daily activity and a wireless scale that automatically logs weigh-ins to private online profiles) to help users reach their health goals.
Currently, one in three American adults has prediabetes (the “gateway” diagnosis to more serious Type 2 diabetes), while eight percent of the adult population has already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and an estimated 79 percent of Americans are at high risk of developing the disease. In light of these statistics, the National Institutes for Health sponsored the Diabetes Prevention Program study. In follow-up studies three years later, the DPP clinical trial found a 58 percent reduction in diabetes in study participants. The study concluded that Type 2 diabetes is largely (though not entirely) preventable and that changes to diet and exercise habits can prevent or delay the disease’s development.
Is it Legit?
It may be too early to tell on Prevent's efficacy, but the DPP’s findings were fairly conclusive: Lifestyle changes can seriously decrease the chances of developing full-blown diabetes. And it stands to reason that providing guidance and support for these changes can make it easier for people to stick with them. Better diabetes prevention systems could also save the national health care system billions of dollars annually. (In 2007, the total cost of diabetes and its complications was estimated at $218 billion.) At 120 bucks a month for four months, Prevent ain’t cheap — but for those who can afford it, it’s a small price to pay for a chance at improved health and longevity down the road.
Do you think that programs like this can make a difference for community health? Share your thoughts in comments below or get in touch with the author on Twitter @LauraNewc.