HomeNewsDisplay

News Search

Air Force diabetes prevention program shows promising results

Air Force diabetes prevention program shows promising results

1 in 3 Americans are have prediabetes. Research has shown that we can delay and even prevent the onset of diabetes through simple lifestyle changes that can make significant, positive changes in our health. (Air Force Graphic)

Air Force diabetes prevention program shows promising results

Diabetes Center of Excellence certified educator, Col. (retired) Nina Watson (left) and research director, Jana Wardian, PhD (right) have studied the positive outcomes of the Group Lifestyle Balance program at seven Air Force Bases.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- “I wish I knew this 30 years ago,” is a common feeling among Air Force veterans after receiving diabetes education. Like most of the 89 million Americans with prediabetes, many active duty Airmen do not know the ways they can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

With 1 in 3 Americans at risk for diabetes, researchers and health professionals at the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center in San Antonio, found it critical to implement and test the Group Lifestyle Balance program. The GLB program is a diabetes prevention program that was originally developed at the University of Pittsburgh and piloted at seven Air Force bases. The program targets those at risk for developing diabetes, including anyone with elevated blood sugars, metabolic issues, or a family history of diabetes.

Diabetes, specifically Type 2 diabetes, is largely attributed to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Targeting these factors is at the core of the GLB program. The Diabetes Center of Excellence utilizes this program to help patients prevent or delay diabetes by engaging active duty, veterans, and their families in preventative health behaviors.

“Diabetes is a costly and progressive disease,” said Nina Watson, a retired Air Force Lt. Col. and current certified diabetes educator with the Diabetes COE at Wilford Hall. “Many people do not realize they can delay or even prevent diabetes just by changing their lifestyle.” 

Initially the GLB program consisted of an intensive 12-week program that focused on overall health and behavior change. It has expanded to a one-year program that provides ongoing group and lifestyle coach support after the initial 12 weeks. The course relies on periodic, face-to-face meetings, weekly assignments, and group support. During this time, patients learn how to improve their diet and make healthier dietary choices. Additionally, they learn ways to increase their physical activity; the goal being to develop positive behaviors that become lifelong habits.

“Continuing education and support after the initial intervention is integral to preventing relapse and solidify behaviors,” said Nina Watson.

Currently, the Diabetes COE has a manuscript accepted for publication in Military Medicine describing their experience providing the GLB program. The program demonstrated impressive results for those who completed the first 12 weeks. Significant improvements were seen on weight, body mass index, and cholesterol in the participants. These improvements not only mean improved overall health, but also mean participants are more likely to delay or prevent the onset of diabetes.

In addition to the focused education, group support for the participants created much of the program’s success.

“The group accountability and support makes it easier to overcome challenges and celebrate successes,” said Regina Watson, the health promotions program manager for the Air Force Medical Support Agency. “Just knowing that they would meet with the same people every week made participants look forward to these meetings. They felt better knowing other people were dealing with similar challenges.”

The GLB pilot did yield another important finding – active duty participants with prediabetes dropped out of the program at a higher rate than any other group. With almost 13,000 active duty Airmen with prediabetes, it is an issue that needs to be addressed.  

“Airmen may believe that because of their physical fitness requirements, they are not at risk for diabetes. Many Airmen can pass the physical fitness test despite poor lifestyle choices. They may not realize how difficult treating diabetes can be later in their life if they continue the same behaviors,” said Nina Watson. “It is vital to get this information to younger Airmen so they adopt lifestyle behaviors that could help them live a long and healthy life.” 

The GLB program is looking to increase its reach to all at-risk Airmen using technology like telemedicine, mobile messaging, and fitness applications. This can expand the program to all Air Force medical facilities and allow Airmen to receive support even after the program ends.

“The Diabetes COE is the best kept secret in the Air Force and we want the GLB program to be a priority for all at-risk active duty Airmen,” says Nina Watson. “After all, a healthy, fit Airman is the most valuable asset the Air Force has.  

Air Force Medicine

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Without the innovators who built the aviation industry, providing expeditionary medicine in the air would not be po… https://t.co/PgerHfIrjF
Go behind the scenes to meet the medical laboratory technicians at @374AirliftWing! Their work allows doctors to do… https://t.co/56kbQKBi7v
We are constantly improving the way we deliver healthcare and enhance access to your healthcare team. Telehealth is… https://t.co/M143P2FMX2
Col. Laurel “Buff” Burkel speaks to the 105th Airlift Wing, the same group that flew her back the U.S. via a 105th… https://t.co/ln92dbDOsK
RT @MilitaryHealth: This week #AcrossTheMHS airmen exercise an Emergency Medical Technician Rodeo, Capt. Timby's granddaughter gets flower…
If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk for serious problems from vaccine-preventable diseases like flu. Check… https://t.co/Lxxe2FSu9M
“It is rare to have a family member in the same career as you. It is even rarer for active-duty family members to b… https://t.co/UbIWxJb0Xt
#TropicCare2018 was off to a smooth start when a patient, who came in for a vision screening, began to say that som… https://t.co/uFdNog8z1b
A new transition cell was recently stood-up to coordinate and support ongoing transition efforts related to the NDA… https://t.co/wxrZC0NeHB
#TBT Air Force Airman First Class Eugene L. Fletcer, a preventive dentistry specialist assigned to the 3rd USAF Dis… https://t.co/wukbDiH5TO
Don’t forget! On Aug 22 from 2-3 pm EST the Air Force Medical Service and DHA Immunization Healthcare Branch are ho… https://t.co/eJFLNo4iNx
Before any of the patients and procedures, Aeromedical Evacuation Technicians have to first configure their hospita… https://t.co/gInlDM6phH
When a military working dog injures a tooth, it’s up to a team of dentists and veterinarians to ensure their bite r… https://t.co/VwM6jMKKR0
"A traditional stethoscope is essentially useless during en route care because of the noise,” says Tamara Averett-B… https://t.co/li0Sj3UdhB
Did you know Air Force medical researchers developed the gold visors used by the #Apollo astronauts? The gold visor… https://t.co/O9Y8iQRa2p
En route to participate in the 2018 #TropicCare Innovative Readiness Training, Airmen from the Indiana & New Jersey… https://t.co/bDSAesQbA4
Adult vaccines are available in many places, including doctor's offices, health departments & pharmacies. Visit the… https://t.co/88k7jsIEq2
Congratulations to all the Emergency Medical Technician winners of this year's #EMTRodeo! This competition gives th… https://t.co/AxKpnKK3mK
There’s still time to enter our C.A.R.E. contest! Send in a video or essay explaining how you strive to reach our c… https://t.co/BoGvuwS8Rf