New program aims to help at-risk employees prevent diabetes

Free benefit to promote healthy lifestyle change
By Staff
CU Health Plan – Diabetes Prevention
During Open Enrollment, April 27-May 11, you may access this innovative program by enrolling in any CU Health Plan and meeting the required criteria. For more details on this year’s Open Enrollment, visit

While the official launch of CU Health Plan – Diabetes Prevention for both Anthem and Kaiser is July 1, this month more than 140 CU Health Plan participants, including University of Colorado employees, became the first to participate in this free, innovative, lifestyle-change program led by trained lifestyle coaches.

The program was previewed during the February-March biometric screening events. This year, the free blood test included a Hemoglobin A1C test. Hemoglobin A1C measures a person’s average blood sugar levels. Screening participants were advised that they would receive a confidential call encouraging them to contact their provider about their test results and suggesting they enroll in the program, CU Health Plan — Diabetes Prevention, from Anthem’s third-party outreach vendor or Kaiser if their Hemoglobin A1C test reflected a blood sugar value higher than normal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes, a condition that increases their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and a list of other potential medical problems. With estimates only projected to grow during the next decade, CU Health Plan decided to act.

The University of Colorado Health and Welfare Plan (CU Health Plan) implemented CU Health Plan – Diabetes Prevention, a program designed to help prevent employees from developing Type 2 diabetes, as one in three employees may be at risk, based on national averages. This is part of a growing number of CU Health Plan preventive programs aimed at keeping CU’s workforce healthy.

Following the successful implementation of a CU Health Plan program design change started two years ago that provides free diabetes drugs and pharmacy supplies, the Diabetes Prevention program aims to help employees tackle pre-diabetes risk. Once this program is fully implemented, if a physician identifies that a participant might be at risk for pre-diabetes, his or her CU Health Plan will cover everything from programs to prevent diabetes through lifestyle coaching and classes to drugs and supplies.

CU Health Plan wants to “offer employees assistance that they need to help prevent diabetes and stay out of the emergency room,” said Tony DeCrosta, chief plan administrator for University of Colorado Health and Welfare Plan.

How does the program work?

CU Health Plan – Diabetes Prevention is a 16-week program in which participants work to change their lifestyles and lose between 5 percent and 7 percent of their body weight.

The program includes personal assistance from a lifestyle coach with the added benefit of group mentoring, which can be done either in person or virtually. CU employees can pick the version that best fits their schedule, and employees can switch classes if they find one that works better.

Over the course of the program, participants will track meals and calories while getting regular feedback from a lifestyle coach. This log is turned in to a lifestyle coach who will help guide them through the program by providing information and support and to maintain expectations and establish accountability.

These coaches are invested in participants’ success by assisting with self-monitoring and problem solving. Participants do this together and have weekly meetings to discuss challenges and suggestions. Each weekly class features a different topic such as: being active, healthy eating out and managing stress.

Support doesn’t end after 16 weeks; monthly checkups help participants maintain a new and healthier lifestyle. These checkups continue for six months following the initial program’s end. Success in this program is achieved when a participant loses between 5 percent and 7 percent of his or her body weight and makes a positive lifestyle change, reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

To help participants become more active, Be Colorado — the wellness component of the CU Health Plan — encourages participants to pair this with its Move. program. By participating inMove., primary CU Health Plan members can earn up to $25 per month by tracking their physical activity.

How do you qualify?

To qualify for this program, you must be enrolled in a CU Health Plan and meet one of the following criteria:

Be identified as at-risk for pre-diabetes. This entails having your medical provider test your Hemoglobin A1C level, which is your average blood sugar level over time. This is a common test to see your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Take a quiz designed by the CDC and receive a score of 9 or greater.
Be older than 18 with a body mass index (BMI) of 24 or more.

The program also is available to covered spouses and dependents age 18 and above.

This is just the latest step incorporated by the university to keep its workforce happy and healthy. To find out more about this new program, visit the Be Colorado website.