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Published on May 02, 2016

A 182-pound weight loss, with a blood sugar drop as wellA 182-pound weight loss, with a blood sugar drop as well

When Danielle Perales of West Dennis decided to lose weight a year ago, she knew it would not be easy. Tipping the scales at 481 pounds, she had a long way to go.

Even though she had gained much of the weight in her teenage years, Perales had added 100 pounds in the past year. It was becoming more difficult to perform everyday tasks.

She chose gastric bypass surgery to accomplish her goal. But, before she could have the operation, she had to lose some weight and stabilize her elevated blood sugar level. Perales’ primary care physician at the Duffy Health Center in Hyannis referred her to a new program, the Diabetes Prevention Program offered at the YMCA Cape Cod.

“The program is about behavior change, personal growth and lifestyle changes,” said Patience Smith-Cabrera, YMCA diabetes coordinator. “Participants learn how to take care of themselves so the pre-diabetes doesn’t progress to diabetes.”

National and Local Partnerships

The Diabetes Prevention Program is a national YMCA initiative. The local program is funded through the Health and Wellness Trust Fund grant (private funding administered by Massachusetts Department of Public Health). A requirement of the funding was to develop clinical and community-based partners in prevention by referring patients at risk for a chronic disease, said Peugh.

The community partnerships include the Community Health Centers of Cape Cod in Mashpee, Bourne and Falmouth, as well as Harbor Health and Duffy Health centers in Hyannis. These medical centers refer patients using an electronic physician referral system.

Cape Cod Healthcare has made targeted grants to the Cape Cod YMCA for chronic disease and youth development programs.

Medicare is considering expanding a pilot diabetes education program funded by the Affordable Care Act, which was developed and administered by the national YMCA. As reported in Kaiser Health News, the pilot program is the first preventive service program from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation to become eligible for expansion within Medicare.

“Treating this disease isn’t just a burden on families. It costs our nation $176 billion in direct medical costs every year,” Department of Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told Kaiser Health News.

The Program Starts With a 16 Weekly Sessions

The year-long Diabetes Prevention Program at the Cape Cod YMCA is incremental, starting with 16 weekly sessions, then three bi-weekly, followed by six monthly meetings. In the initial weeks, a variety of life-changing behaviors are covered.

The classes are held at these locations and at the YMCA.

“It is led by a facilitator; we don’t teach or preach,” said Cabrera. The group works together with a leader to promote discussions and conversations about subjects that can impact weight loss through eating healthy and exercise, Lowered blood sugar levels is one of the primary goals.

Some of the program topics are:

  • Be a fat detective
  • Healthy Eating
  • Move those muscles
  • Being Active: a way of life
  • Tip the Calorie Balance
  • Take Charge or What’s around you
  • Four keys to Healthy Eating Out

“The key element is understanding that behavior change is really, really hard, especially when it comes to committing to eating healthy and adopting an exercise program, “ said Stacie Peugh, president and CEO of YMCA Cape Cod. “We all know how difficult it is to stick with it.”

It Takes a Community of Support            

“I think the greatest thing about this program is that the participants empathize and understand the struggles and journeys of each other,” said Peugh.  “They can help make the tiniest of changes by exchanging ideas and helping each other grow at every session.”

This can come in the form of sharing ideas about recipes, food shopping tips or how best to read a food label for fat content.

The goal of the program is to lose 7 percent of your body weight based on a low-fat diet and exercise. For some, weight loss may take a few weeks. For others, it may be a year.

Perales lost 79 pounds through the Diabetes Prevention Program and her blood sugars dropped to a normal level.  She credits the program for getting her into the food portion control and exercise mindset that continued after the gastric bypass surgery. She has lost 103 pounds since the surgery and now feels great, she reported. She has moved to Florida to be closer to her family.

Perales’ advice to others considering the Diabetic Prevention program is to try it. “What harm can it do to give it a month, and put in the effort” she said. “Once you see the weight loss, it’s worth it.”

Program Fee

The cost of the Diabetes Prevention Program is $429. The YMCA offers grants and financial assistance, or a payment program to participants who are unable to pay the entire fee at one time.

Patients referred by the community health center practices are eligible to attend the program free of charge under the Health and Wellness Trust Fund grant, and are also given a one-year membership to the YMCA in Barnstable.

Currently, health insurance does not cover the program. Medicare is currently considering  coverage for beneficiaries with pre-diabetes.

More information is available by calling Patience Smith-Cabrera at 508-362-6500 ext. 136 or online at