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Story in Brief

Prediabetes and diabetes cost Georgia $9.9 billion annually, and those costs are likely higher in the wake of COVID-19. In the fall of 2019, UGA Extension began delivering the 12-month lifestyle change program called the Diabetes Prevention Program in two counties and then expanded to 13 counties in Winter/Spring 2020. The program was planned for in-person classes, once per week for 16 weeks and then bimonthly or monthly for the remainder of the year-long program. In March 2020, COVID-19 put the country on hold, and challenged Extension agents to help the 102 participants maintain and even improve their health to resist diabetes and COVID-19. On March 16, 2020, all programs pivoted to offering sessions in a virtual or conference call only format. Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agents held weekly sessions via Zoom and conference calls with the participants to discuss healthy eating, physical activity, problem solving, and stress management. The agents delivered 158 virtual or conference call sessions to 98 participants for more than 15,000 educational contact hours. At each session, participants reported weight and physical activity and discussed problem solving, healthy eating, and active living during a pandemic. Participants lost a total of 429 pounds by the time COVID-19 suspended in-person programming. Since programming transitioned to online and phone only, participants have lost an additional 496 pounds and logged 2,899 hours of physical activity. Forty-five percent of participants have met or exceeded the 5 percent weight loss goal, and for many, they are only halfway through the year-long program. The health benefits of the Diabetes Prevention Program extend beyond the duration of the program. At least one study estimates for a person with type 2 diabetes, losing 5 percent of their body weight and keeping it off saves $400 per year in medical costs. Thus, the potential value of the first 44 participants meeting their weight loss goals is about $17,600.