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Helping our members reverse the trend of type 2 diabetes

Helping our members reverse the trend of type 2 diabetes
Blue Shield of California’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps thousands of members reduce their diabetes risk

BY ANGIE KALOUSEK - Did you know that 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for type 2 diabetes? Type 2 diabetes is also one of the top 5 health conditions affecting Californians, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this devastating disease through what we call lifestyle medicine - the clinical practice of using evidence-based approaches to prevent, treat and even reverse lifestyle-related chronic disease. Lifestyle medicine programs can include a healthy diet; regular physical activity; adequate sleep; stress management; avoidance of substance use; and other non-drug interventions.

One of the lifestyle medicine programs available to Blue Shield of California’s members is our Diabetes Prevention Program. In collaboration with Solera Health, we offer our members digital and in-person programs to help them take control of their health and reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.

To enroll in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), members take a one-minute quiz online to determine their personal risk factors. Those who qualify can access in-person interventions such as Weight Watchers, as well as a range of digital programs, allowing the participant to decide how they prefer to engage. Participants are offered tools to support their success such as a free wireless scale for digital participants and a Fitbit activity tracker to help them measure their progress. In addition, these programs may include small group support, weekly lessons and/or access to a personal health coach.

We launched this program in 2017, enrolling 7,400 participants in the first year. And we’re seeing remarkable results, including promising clinical outcomes in reducing the risk and severity of type 2 diabetes for participating members.

In fact, our first DPP class exceeded four of the five success metrics identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other results included:


  • Sustained engagement: Over the course of the six-month class, 96.5 percent of members stayed enrolled.

  • Increased physical activity: participants recorded weekly physical activity at 95 percent of the nationally recommended level or an average of 143 minutes of physical exercise a week. That’s just shy of the CDC’s recommended 150 minutes per week. When you consider 28% of American’s are physically inactive, this is a remarkable outcome.

  • Significant weight loss: members enrolled in our DPP on average lost 3.4 percent of their bodyweight after six months. For example, a member that weighed 200 pounds when starting DPP lost on average nearly 7 pounds after six months in the program. This kind of weight loss can make a huge difference in their overall health; research demonstrates that weight loss between 3 and 5 percent of one’s bodyweight reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 38 percent.


We have also learned a great deal about how our members prefer to engage with the program, helping us fine-tune our program.


  • 79 percent of members prefer digital solutions compared to in-person programs.

  • In-person providers outperform digital providers in achieving target weight loss.

  • Across both digital and in-person DPP platforms, Blue Shield’s programs received a 92 percent favorability rating from a survey of over 3,800 participating members.


In 2018, our goal is to increase enrollment in our Diabetes Prevention Program to 10,000 members. Blue Shield of California will also be reaching out to provider groups to ensure they have the tools they need to refer pre-diabetic patients into the program. With this holistic approach, we can help ensure that our members are able to take control of their health and make reasonable changes to their lifestyle to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.

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