NRAO earns recognition for diabetes prevention

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A program designed to prevent diabetes among at-risk staff members and dependents of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro has received recognition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The program, funded by NRAO, Associated Universities, Inc., and the New Mexico Department of Health, seeks to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes by helping at-risk people change toward healthier lifestyles. As a part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program, the Socorro effort is based on a research study led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The NIH research indicates that nearly 60 percent of participants in programs like this will not develop diabetes,” said NRAO-New Mexico Wellness Coordinator Marie Glendenning. “Our program is one of only a few in the state to receive recognition from the CDC,” she added.

The program’s staff includes a medical doctor, fitness instructor, diabetes educator/lifestyle coach, dietitian, and two coordinators. Based on results from tests done at a health fair held for NRAO employees and dependents last autumn, people at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes were identified and invited to participate.

For the 25 participants, the program offers weekly education and health-evaluation presentations as well as fitness and yoga classes. Each participant is committed to an initial 16-week program of weight loss and exercise, with monthly follow-up sessions for one year. Evaluation data will be provided regularly to the CDC.

“This program benefits both the participants and the observatory. By voluntarily joining and completing the program, many people who otherwise would be at risk for becoming diabetic will gain improved health and quality of life,” Glendenning said. “By preventing diabetes, the program can save our observatory significant health-care costs.”

The National Diabetes Prevention Program was started in 2010, and is building an expanding network of lifestyle intervention programs for those with prediabetes. An estimated 57 million Americans with prediabetes are in danger of becoming diabetic within three to six years, according to the CDC.

“The NIH study showed that lifestyle changes, including losing weight, making healthier food choices, and increasing physical activity, can prevent diabetes,” said Dale Frail, NRAO’s Assistant Director for N.M. Operations. “We are very grateful to be able to bring a program with a proven record of success to our employees and their families, and would like to see this opportunity extended to others in the future,” he added. Frail has identified health and safety as high priorities for NRAO in New Mexico.

The NRAO’s Diabetes Prevention Program is a partnership made possible by support from the observatory’s Wellness Committee in New Mexico; numerous other staff members in both New Mexico and the observatory’s headquarters in Charlottesville, Va.; the New Mexico Department of Health; the CDC; the health-care professionals on the program’s team; the Socorro General Hospital; the Socorro Public Health Office; and New Mexico Tech.

 

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