UTMB Lifestyle Coaches

UTMB leads the way in diabetes education and care

With evidence-based clinical practices and a CDC fully recognized Diabetes Prevention Program, UTMB Health is leading the way in changing lifestyles and managing diabetes for individuals in the Greater Houston and Galveston areas and beyond.

Dr. Kevin McKinney, chief of the UTMB Health Division of Endocrinology, works closely with providers across the UTMB system of care to ensure diabetic and pre-diabetic patients receive the attention and guidance they need when in clinic.

Dr. Kevin McKinney

"UTMB has established protocols on how to take care of diabetes and everybody in our community-based clinic program has learned these practices,” said McKinney. “We've developed ways for people who have diabetes or prediabetes to have access to the state-of-the-art medications used to treat the common condition."

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that approximately 10.5 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes with trends showing diagnoses of the disease only increasing in recent years, which means the care McKinney describes is in high-demand.

But that care is just part of UTMB’s solution to this growing problem. The other piece of the puzzle is Dr. Hanaa Sallam, assistant professor with the UTMB Division of Endocrinology, who leads the institution's Diabetes educational program.

Launched in 2016, UTMB Health’s diabetes prevention program PreventT2® received its first recognition from the CDC in 2019, then in 2021 it earned a new honor when it was classified as a Full Plus Recognition program for its distance learning modality – an impressive feature added during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For people interested in making changes, whether they have diabetes or prediabetes, they can find the right program at UTMB," said Sallam referring to the two different tracks they have for folks already diagnosed and those showing signs they may be at risk of being diagnosed.

Lifestyle Coaches at UTMB deliver the program using CDC-accredited curricula. Throughout the program, 10-15 participants will learn how to make and maintain lifestyle changes over the course of a year.

"They set the goals for themselves. I am just a facilitator. They set the goals for the lifestyle changes they want to achieve," Sallam said. "We have achieved full recognition for the program from the CDC, which is a high honor, but we worked hard to achieve it."

The results of the hard work Sallam and her team have put in is palpable when looking at the health improvements of the participants.

"The program has been very successful, with people making many lifestyle changes,” said Sallam. “Some have lost 8.8% of their body weight, dropped their A1C by 1%, decreased their fasting blood sugar, and reduced their blood pressure.”

Offered in both English and Spanish, the program tries to meet people where they are by having a variety of class times, including some in the evening and on weekends. They also try to keep it all enjoyable and not just another grueling to-do. And the best part – it’s all free.

"We like our participants to get more engaged together with the coaches. They form this bond together that will last a lifetime. I tell the participants to look around, these are your good friends for life," said Sallam. "To build camaraderie, we offer them extracurricular and enrichment activities such as yoga, mindful eating exercises, cooking demos and options for hands-on training for how to select healthier options. We want to keep it fun."

In addition to the work she does with individuals looking to improve their health, Sallam – a trained lifestyle coach – also offers training for individuals looking to move into a coaching role, too. To date she has trained over 90 coaches and works with colleagues like Dr. McKinney to ensure he has the tools needed to empower his team when educating them on the best practices to manage and treat pre-diabetes and diabetes in patients.

"Diagnosis starts at the primary care physician. A few months ago, I delivered that training on state-of-the-art diabetes care to a large group of our primary care practitioners. They have taken it to heart, and we have seen improvements in our benchmarks already," he said.

For more information about diabetes prevention and care at UTMB Health, visit www.utmb.edu/diabetes.

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