The University of Kentucky’s cooperative extension and Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center have partnered together to lower diabetes risk for Scott County residents through a new virtual pilot program.

UK’s extension agents will deliver the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to Scott County residents who have been diagnosed with prediabetes or deemed a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. But currently they are on the lookout for volunteers in Scott County who are eligible to participate in the program.

While Barnstable Brown currently offers a similar program at it’s Lexington location, Laura Hieronymus, associate director of education and quality services at Barnstable Brown, said this type of extension program to rural areas is especially important in Kentucky.

“We’re one of the highest states in terms of percentages for the number of people with diabetes,” she said. “There’s 120 counties in the state and we’re primarily rural. The goal of the 12-month diabetes program is to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes through healthy eating and physical activity, but also problem solving and healthy coping.”

According to the 2019 Kentucky Diabetes Report, one in 10 Kentucky adults have been told by a medical professional that they have prediabetes, while 12 percent have diabetes. Kentucky also has the fourth highest mortality rate due to diabetes in the nation. Within that, Hieronymus said Scott County had one of the highest rates in Kentucky.

Heather Norman-Burgdolf, dietetics professor at UK who is involved in the program, described it as a “lifestyle program” for those at risk of type 2 diabetes.

“It’s a year-long program, so essentially it’s a group of individuals where you have a lifestyle coach that has been trained in the DPP, so that will be our extension agent,” Norman-Burgdolf said. “They are facilitating classes or group meetings. Each meeting has a lesson or component, but that’s not the most important piece. It’s the discussion and the dialogue. For example, the discussion topic could be adding physical activity to your day. You’ll have everybody in the group share how they could do that.”

The program meets for 16 weeks, with weekly or biweekly meetings for the first six months. The goal is for the first six months is for participants to lose between five to seven percent of their body weight, with the next six months focusing more on maintenance. According to National DPP research, those who complete the program lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by approximately 50 percent.

“The program is evidence-based,” Hieronymus said. “It’s a proven program. Participants can be and will be successful when working with lifestyle coaches in this capacity.”

The first year-long program took place in Washington County involved 12 adult participants and ended in September 2020, where Norman-Burgdolf said it had a 100 percent retention rate. According to data collected from the program, participants lost 5.6 percent of their body weight, and 75 percent met weight loss goals set at the beginning of the program.

“From what I’ve heard, it was very well received,” she said. “Now that it’s been successful there, we’re hoping that gives us some momentum so our extension agents can see that it can be incredibly effective and               impactful.” 

The Washington County program was able to run its first six months in-person, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, had to move to virtual for the remaining six months. However, the Scott County program is planned to start off entirely virtual, with the possibility of moving to in-person down the line.

“We’ve just kind of been in a little bit of a lull because of COVID,” she said. “We’re realizing 2021 is not going to be normal either, so we’re trying to recruit for Scott County for a completely virtual program. With cooperative extension, we’re strictly following the state’s recommendations for the size of groups that can meet.”

The Scott County program’s two lifestyle coaches are both dietitians in the area and is looking for 12 to 15 people to participate. Participants will also need to have Internet access.

Hieronymus said if someone has a prediabetes diagnosis or believes they may be eligible, they can reach out to Barnstable Brown to schedule an information session at 859-323-7391.


Kyle Woosley can be reached at

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