In partnership with the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD), the Muskegon YMCA has begun to offer their Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) for participants with diverse learning abilities. Kelli DeLong, Healthy Living Director and Lifestyle Coach at the Muskegon Y, launched the first adapted class virtually in March of 2021 in response to participant need as expressed by MAISD. This year, the program has expanded to four classes taking place in-person at the MAISD Transition at Craig Campus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the over 88 million adults that have prediabetes, more than 8 in 10 are not aware they have it.[1] The Muskegon YMCA has offered the DPP for over 6 years in order to proactively prevent people with prediabetes from developing type 2 diabetes. The DPP is a lifestyle change program, not a diet or exercise, and it has been proven to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58%.[2]  Highly trained coaches facilitate each session and place an emphasis on meeting participants where they are at and working with them to set achievable goals.

The Muskegon Y is able to tailor their DPP to allow participants to reach their highest potential with the course, as was done in order to best serve the MAISD groups. The MAISD Transition at Craig Campus offers an elective post-secondary program for young adults who receive special education services. DeLong modified several parts of the program in order to best meet the learning needs of her participants. For example, the Food and Activity trackers that are used in the program to encourage balanced eating and increased physical activity included ways for participants to track their move-it minutes, color in picture representations of their food intake, and visually monitor their progress towards their goals. According to DeLong, the modified program includes the same information as the standard DPP course, however it is presented in ways that are more accessible and engaging.

“The partnership between the YMCA and MAISD helped to enable our participants to take control of their own health and wellness in ways they may not have before,” said MAISD Transition Campus Principal Katherine Slaghuis. “The classes are engaging and provide participants with a renewed enthusiasm for healthy eating and physical activity.”

Since first launching the class virtually with MAISD in May of 2021, the Muskegon Y has implemented four in-person classes to reach more participants. With these classes, DeLong is looking forward to having heightened engagement and being able to better connect with the participants. She expressed that being face to face makes it easier to recognize if a participant is struggling, and this allows coaches to offer help and encouragement. The in-person classes have also allowed for a new range of hands-on activities to help enhance the key point of each session. For example, a Halloween activity involves participants finding the fat grams and calories in different pieces of Halloween candy and determining how much physical activity would be required to burn those off.

“Adapting a proven curriculum for unique populations is just another example of innovation at the local level that Y’s can leverage throughout the country,” said Heather Hodge, Senior Director of Community Health, YMCA of the USA. “Serving diverse populations is fundamental to the YMCA and we applaud the partnership between the Muskegon YMCA and the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District.”

In the future, the Muskegon YMCA hopes to take the outcomes from the MAISD groups and utilize them to offer more adapted programs to other school systems, organizations, or businesses. The Muskegon Y invites readers to learn how they can get involved and help spread the word. This could entail implementing the program for their employees, checking out the program themselves or recommending it to a loved one who may be at risk, becoming a program coach, or donating resources.

This project is being funded by the CDC 1705 Expansion Grant (NU58DP006365) through Trinity Health

[1] About Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes | National Diabetes Prevention Program | Diabetes | CDC

[2] CDC – About the Program – National Diabetes Prevention Program – Diabetes DDT