Employers Need to Know About Pre-Diabetes and the Risks!

Take a moment to think about your employees. Picture them coming to work each day, conducting business, making progress towards goals, achieving outcomes and completing projects.  Now think about your employees again in this context:  it’s likely that 1 in 3 of them is pre-diabetic and at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This could be Joan at reception, Maggie in Communications, Steve in Customer Service, or Mark who you’ve worked with for the last 5 years.  Or this could be you.

You may be wondering, what is prediabetes? Prediabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. There are 1.5 million people with prediabetes in Colorado, or 1 out of 3 adults, and only 7% of Coloradans with prediabetes are aware they have it. This means that prediabetes is a common condition that most people know nothing about.

What factors make it likely that an individual has prediabetes? Risk factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not exercising
  • Being over the age of 45
  • Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes

Without action, many people with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes. The total cost of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. in 2012 was $245 billion, a 41% increase since 2007. In addition, the average medical cost for a person with diabetes is 2.3 times higher than that of someone without diabetes. In Colorado, the average total medical cost for a patient with diabetes was $13,000 per year in 2012. These trends are only continuing to rise over time and it directly affects your bottom line.

The time for action is now.

The National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) is a year-long evidence-based lifestyle change program that is taught by trained Lifestyle Coaches in community organizations, clinics, or worksites.  It is based on randomized clinical control trials led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Participants who lost a modest amount of weight (5 to 7 % of their body weight) and increased their physical activity to 150 minutes per week reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%. Data from a 15-year follow up study showed that participants in the lifestyle change group continued to be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes as compared to the group that did not participate in the program. The results are effective and long-lasting.  

The NDPP includes 16 weekly sessions during the first six months of the program, followed by six monthly sessions. This means a full year of support to help your employees make lasting lifestyle changes. During the sessions participants will learn valuable skills, such as how to deal with stress, read food labels, and understand nutrition information using a food diary. The sessions will help participants reach a goal of 150 minutes of physical activity each week and achieve 5 to 7%weight loss.

Employers play a large role in the health of their employees. Help educate your employees about prediabetes by using internal communication and marketing to get employees engaged in their health. Offer prediabetes screenings as part of your employee wellness program or onsite health screenings and encourage your employees to share their results with their primary care provider. Consider adding the NDPP as a covered benefit with your insurance provider and promoting participation in the program.

Finally, encourage your employees to visit DoIHavePrediabetes.org to take a risk quiz and find a nearby program

Becky DiOrio, MPH
Chronic Disease Coordinator, CDPHE

For more information contact Colorado Business Group on Health  for more information and to discuss next steps