Increasing Diabetes Awareness Through Parks and Rec

By Lesha Spencer-Brown MPH, CPH | Posted on November 16, 2018

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November is National Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness about diabetes —  the seventh leading cause of death in the country — and its impact on millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30 million people across the country are living with diabetes (type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes) and 84 million people have prediabetes, 90 percent of whom are not aware that they have prediabetes. Unfortunately, the number of people living with diabetes has tripled over the last 20 years, and 90-95 percent of those people are living with Type 2 diabetes.

This month, NRPA is partnering with the Lakeshore Foundation for the Push For Your Health! campaign, which promotes inclusive diabetes prevention programs and practices focused on Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

The CDC recommends that people with prediabetes participate in lifestyle change programs such as the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), a structured program to help people with prediabetes delay or prevent the onset of diabetes through engagement in healthy nutrition practices and physical activity. Research has shown that participation in this program can decrease an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent (71 percent if 60 years or older), and participants can lose 5-7 percent of their starting body weight.

By the very nature of our work, local park and recreation agencies are well-positioned to join efforts to not only raise awareness about this growing health issue, but also offer targeted programs and activities to engage individuals with prediabetes and even those at-risk for prediabetes. At least 24 percent of local park and recreation agencies across the country are already offering diabetes programs according to the Healthy Aging in Parks Survey Report.

The Newport 60+ Activity Center is one park and recreation agency that has offered DPP to people living with prediabetes in Newport, Oregon, since 2016. The center is also one of the eight organizations in the state of Oregon to receive full program recognition from the CDC, meaning their program has been effective by achieving all of the performance criteria set forth by the CDC. Since offering the DPP, the center has engaged participants who testify to the positive benefits of the program:

“There are many factors involved in trying to prevent type 2 diabetes. This class addresses them. Some of these include not only what we eat but when we eat, where we choose to eat, what causes us to overeat and, most of all, accountability. Plus, there is a lot of support not only from the class facilitator, but from other people in the class as well. I highly recommend this class to anyone who is at risk of becoming a type 2 diabetic.”

“I did another weight loss program for three years and was successful. But when my blood sugar began to creep up, I wanted a program focused on more than weight loss. This program takes a wholistic approach, with a focus on changing my habits for life-long good health.”

“I gathered the knowledge I need to live a healthy life and I am developing good habits that will stick with me — eat right, get exercise, reduce stress, get enough sleep.”

According to Peggy O’Callaghan, the center’s supervisor, “the DPP is an important preventative measure for our community to provide better health options for healthy living.”

If your agency is offering diabetes awareness activities this month, show off your activities on social using #Push4YourHealth.

Cheers to improving the health of communities through parks and recreation!

Lesha Spencer-Brown MPH, CPH, is NRPA’s Arthritis Interventions Program Manager.