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  • Left: Cindy McCracken ringing a bell to mark her last day of cancer treatment in August 2023. Right: McCracken in January 2024 after participating in the MU Extension Diabetes Prevention Program. Photos courtesy of Cindy McCracken.

MONETT, Mo. – Cindy McCracken says she’s on a mission to live a healthier life. A partnership in southwestern Missouri is helping her do just that.

McCracken said she felt good about her health after ringing the bell to mark her last cancer treatment. But on a follow-up visit, her doctor said a marker for the level of sugar in her blood was in prediabetic range. The doctor recommended she enroll in a University of Missouri Extension Diabetes Prevention class.

The program is a collaboration with Cox Monett Hospital, which serves Barry and Lawrence counties, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. An MU Extension community health specialist leads the 26-week class, which emphasizes lifestyle changes targeting risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

The need is critical, says Lisa Ramirez, lead supervisor for Cox Monett Hospital’s Center for Health Improvement. In the hospital’s service area, 11% of adults had a diabetes diagnosis in 2020, compared to 9% across the state and nationally. “People with diabetes spend on average 2.6 times more in medical costs than someone without diabetes,” Ramirez said.

In yearlong national trials of diabetes prevention through lifestyle changes, participants decreased the development of diabetes by 58%. For those over 60 years of age, participants decreased their risk by 71%.

A longtime family practice physician and MU graduate in the Monett area first suggested the collaboration, Ramirez said. He had heard about the work MU Extension’s 10 community health field specialists were doing statewide and initiated conversations about bringing a specialist to Cox Monett to implement diabetes prevention services. Bai Xiong, a nutritionist and MU Extension field specialist in community health projects, oversees the classes offered at Cox Monett. The hospital hired a bilingual educator to support a Spanish-speaking cohort.

“It has been a wonderful partnership that has allowed us to expand our diabetes services to address diabetes at all stages of the life cycle, from prevention to treatment,” Ramirez said. “We could not have done this without the support and grant funding that MU Extension has provided.”

The class offers education, coaching and support for lifestyle changes that address nutrition, diet and physical exercise. There is also a mental health component to help participants learn how to manage stress and triggers, Xiong said.

“A lot of what we do is hands-on,” she said. “Our goal is to help people become more conscious about the decisions they are making around food and activity and to help them understand the basics of good nutrition and what foods affect blood sugar.”

The program also provides participants the opportunity to train with a fitness instructor to exercise safely and with confidence. “The physical training component is adapted to people of all abilities, ages, physical limitations and needs,” she said.

McCracken was part of the first cohort of 11 people who met their weight loss goals, collectively losing 268 pounds in 13 weeks. “I had a struggle at first. But the class really helps develop good habits over time so that you want to be successful and learn how to live a healthier life that makes you feel better,” McCracken said.

The program is being replicated in Ava, Mo., in partnership with Missouri Ozarks Community Health.

MU Extension is working with the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies to provide the Stanford Youth Diabetes Coaching Program in Monett. The program teaches youths how to be effective coaches to help their parents and others live healthier. The eight-week course includes a component in which participants explore rural health career opportunities with local health professionals.

These collaborations are helping to bridge clinical and community health, which is key to address primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies,” Ramirez said. “Working with community partners that can assist in funding and implementing prevention efforts is always a win.”

Photos

https://extension.missouri.edu/sites/default/files/legacy_media/wysiwyg/News/photos/20240626-dp-1.jpg

Left: Cindy McCracken ringing a bell to mark her last day of cancer treatment in August 2023. Right: McCracken in January 2024 after participating in the MU Extension Diabetes Prevention Program. Photos courtesy of Cindy McCracken.