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What Is a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) | How Do You Find the Right One for Yourself?

June 21, 2021
What Is a Diabetes Prevention Program? - Lark Health

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A Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is a lifestyle change program intended to help manage prediabetes and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that participants in a DPP can lower their risk of developing diabetes over the next three years by 58% just with lifestyle changes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you are eligible to participate in a DPP if you are overweight, are at least 18 years old, and you have one of the following characteristics:

  • You have been diagnosed with prediabetes based on a blood test
  • You are a woman who had gestational diabetes while pregnant
  • You score high on the CDC Diabetes Risk Test

In addition, you are ineligible for a DPP if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

A DPP may be a covered benefit in your health insurance plan, and it may turn out that you have options for which DPP provider to choose. Finding the right DPP for yourself can improve your chance of successfully lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Here is some background on what a Diabetes Prevention Programs is and how to select the right one for yourself.

Components of a Diabetes Prevention Program

The CDC requires each DPP within the National Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program (DPRP) to have certain components. There is a standardized curriculum to help you learn healthy lifestyle skills, as well as a lifestyle coach and some tools for keeping you on track with your goals.

Weight Loss and Activity Goals

The CDC requires that DPP providers help participants work towards specific goals. The , such as:

Ideally, participants should achieve at least one of the following goals:

  • Losing 5 to 7% of body weight
  • Achieving at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity plus losing at least 4% of body weight
  • Reducing glycated hemoglobin, or A1C, by at least 0.2 (that corresponds to an average glucose level reduction of 5 to 6 mg/dl)

These changes are linked to lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Curriculum Approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC requires DPP providers to present a curriculum that the CDC has approved. The CDC provides a curriculum called PreventT2, which is what the YMCA DPP curriculum is based off of. Lark DPP also presents Prevent T2.

The curriculum is presented over the course of the year.

  • Months 1 to 6 include Lessons 1 to 16, typically presented weekly or biweekly
  • Months 7 to 12 include another 6 to 10 lessons, presented biweekly or monthly

Lessons include topics designed to help you make healthier choices to lose weight, eat healthier, and increase physical activity. Your YMCA or Lark DPP curriculum might include topics such as the following.

  • Choosing healthier foods at the grocery store
  • Identifying healthier sources of carbohydrates
  • Selecting lower-calorie foods to balance energy needs
  • Staying active at home and on the go

A DPP provider can offer additional material along with the CDC curriculum, provided that it is evidence-based and geared towards preventing diabetes with lifestyle changes. For example, Lark DPP adds daily check-ins to each Prevent T2 lesson to give participants a more in-depth experience with tricks and motivational tips. Lark also provides coaching on behaviors, such as sleep and stress management, that affect diabetes risk. 

Lifestyle Coach

A CDC Lifestyle Coach has been trained on providing the DPP curriculum in a program approved by the CDC. Every DPP must have one or more Lifestyle Coaches to teach the curriculum and support participants in other ways. 

Logging and Tracking

Self-monitoring behaviors, such as logging food, tracking physical activity, and weighing regularly, are associated with successful weight management, according to research in Medical Clinics of North America

The CDC requires DPP providers to offer logging and tracking tools for their participants. Participants are asked to keep an activity log, which they go over with their coach at each meeting. They are also asked to weigh-in at each in-person meeting so that coaches can monitor progress. The DPP also encourages participants to keep a food journal.

With a virtual DPP such as Lark, these self-monitoring behaviors can be done on your phone. You may receive a smart scale that syncs automatically with Lark, and your Lark coach can track your physical activity and progress towards your goal. The food logging feature in Lark lets you quickly add your foods and beverages and get feedback on them. Research in PLOS One and Translational Behavioral Medicine has found that using digital health programs and trackers can increase chances of achieving weight loss goals.

Finding the Right DPP for Yourself

Though many components are consistent in every DPP, the experience you have in the program you join can vary greatly. Options may vary in their location, sponsoring organization such as a YMCA DPP versus church-based DPP, or even whether they are in person or online. Your success in the DPP can depend on selecting the right program for yourself. These are some factors to think about as you look around for a DPP to enroll in.


Participating in the DPP is a year-long commitment that includes up to 26 meetings, so it is essential for the program to fit into your schedule. If you are looking at DPP providers with in-person options, you may need to check online or contact them via phone or email to find out their class schedules. 

Possible class times could include:

  • Daytimes
  • Evenings
  • Weekends

Daytime meetings on weekdays can be tricky if you work regular business hours or attend school. Evening and weekend meetings can help accommodate these needs, but they can be tough for other reasons. For example, traffic can be heavy during early evening rush hour, or evenings or weekends may be the only times you have to cook healthy meals or get in a workout.

Location and Transportation

There are thousands of DPP providers offering in-person programs, including over 100 YMCA DPP providers. That may mean there is an in-person program near you. If that is the case, it may be convenient for you to attend one, especially if parking is available or there is public transportation to it. 

On the other hand, there is a shortage of in-person DPP. For example, research in Translational Behavioral Medicine notes that there is a DPP in only 27.9% of counties in the US. While almost half of urban counties have a DPP, only 1 in 6 rural counties have a DPP provider. These shortages can mean that attending an in-person program is difficult or impossible due to the need to travel far.

Opting for a virtual DPP immediately eliminates the need to commute to sessions. This lets you avoid the time and costs associated with transportation and parking, since you can access your Lark DPP anywhere from your smartphone.

Finding a "Safe Space"

A DPP group needs to be a "safe space" to get maximum benefits and participate fully. To be a safe space, groups need to be welcoming, non-judgemental, and free of criticism to make you feel safe and comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings, and asking for help.

An in-person DPP can be a safe space if the following are true

  • If it is led by a coach who happens to be trained in creating a welcoming environment
  • If the ground rules clearly support emotional protection
  • If participants are guided in maintaining a safe space.
  • If you are comfortable opening up to a coach and a group of people from different walks of life but with similar health goals and challenges as you.

A YMCA DPP can be a safe space for many people with prediabetes, but there are reasons why online DPPs can be a "safe space" as well. For example, Lark DPP:

  • Has a virtual coach who is compassionate and non-judgemental
  • Allows you to share personal information with your coach without other people hearing
  • Is built using compassionate and caring principles

Childcare and Other Family Commitments

Participating in a program for your own health, with a trained coach and members who are in your shoes sounds great, but for many parents, the reality is that "me" time is scarce. Attending in-person meetings can require you to set aside 1 to 2 hours at a time, or more if you consider time to travel to the meeting and back. If you are able to carve out that time regularly, spending it in an in-person program, such as a YMCA DPP, can be invaluable.

A virtual DPP, such as Lark, may be a more realistic option for some people who may have any of the following circumstances.

  • Finding that with limited time to yourself, you prefer to spend it working out or catching up on errands than being in a group meeting.
  • Trouble finding childcare during scheduled meeting times, or not wanting to miss the dinner hour or children's activities that occur during those times.
  • An unpredictable or often-changing schedule that makes it nearly impossible to commit to attending meetings weeks or months in advance.

If you have limited time for yourself and your healthy behaviors, do you want to spend it squeezing in a workout, or attending a meeting about better ways to squeeze in a workout? With Lark digital DPP, you can get in your workout or cook a healthy dinner when you have time to do so, and connect with your Lark coach at a time that works for you, even just before bed, right after you get to work in the mornings, or on weekends when you are waiting for your kids at the playground.

Access to Your Coach

Before enrolling in a DPP, it is important to check when and how you can contact your coach. An in-person DPP provider, such as a YMCA, lets you show your food and physical activity logs to your coach at every meeting, such as weekly or biweekly. You can also ask questions at these meetings, and there may be additional chances to communicate with your lifestyle coach.

Lark DPP is always available through your smartphone. With unlimited access and 24/7 availability, you can participate in your DPP on your time and from anywhere. That may be helpful in so many scenarios, including the following, to name a few.

  • If you are tired after work and prefer to interact over your phone after dinner and some rest instead of going to a meeting on the way home or during your precious weekend.
  • For getting instant feedback for each meal and snack that you log, instead of waiting until your next in-person meeting with a lifestyle coach as might be the case in an in-person DPP.
  • If you have night eating syndrome and need support to reduce the calories you consume at night.
laark diabetes prevention program app

If you have prediabetes or risk factors for type 2 diabetes, participating in a DPP can help with lifestyle changes to lower your risk of developing diabetes. You can learn the CDC curriculum while establishing healthy habits to last for years.

Some people may enjoy an in-person DPP because they enjoy the face-to-face interaction with their lifestyle coach and other participants in the program. For these people, a local YMCA that offers a DPP can be a good option. 

Other people may have trouble finding a program near them, or they may have trouble attending in-person meetings due to reasons such as scheduling conflicts or childcare needs. For these people, people who may want unlimited coaching and coaching during off-hours and weekends, and people who may feel reluctant talking about their personal health journey to others, a digital DPP may be more appropriate.

A DPP may be available to you at no cost if your health insurer includes it as a covered benefit. If you feel that an in-person DPP may be the right choice for you, you may want to check to see if your local YMCA offers one and if it is a covered benefit. If a digital DPP such as Lark DPP sounds like it fits your lifestyle better, click or tap here to find out if you may be eligible to join. You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to starting your journey to manage prediabetes and improve health.

About Lark

Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.

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