4 active older adult members (women) reading information

It is an epidemic and one that isn’t getting better. More than 37 million children and adults have diabetes in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association. “Approximately 2,071,045 people in Florida, or 11.6% of the adult population, have diagnosed diabetes,” the group reports as of March 2023. The Hernando County YMCA is going DEEP with The Diabetes Empowerment Education Program to address this epidemic. The initiative started this summer and is an evidence-based self-management series, which helps participants take control of their disease and reduce the risk of complications.  

DEEP was developed by the Midwest Latino Health Research, Training & Policy Center at the University of Illinois, Chicago for use in low-income and ethnic minority populations. The program is appropriate for diabetics, those with a high risk for developing diabetes and those who care for someone with diabetes. 

At the Hernando County Y, the free eight-week program started this summer with 15 participants. Just a few of the many DEEP goals include: improving and maintaining the quality of life for diabetics; preventing complications and incapacities; improving eating habits and maintaining adequate nutrition; increasing physical activity, developing self-care skills; Improving the relationship between patients and healthcare providers; and finding and utilizing available resources.  

It is facilitated by Laura Gamba, a senior trainer for DEEP in collaboration with Elder Options (The Area Agency on Aging which serves Hernando and 14 other central Florida counties). Each class is two hours long. Ann-Gayl Ellis, Senior Membership Director at Hernando Y explains DEEP is special because of its “experiential format.” 

“There are no videos or PowerPoints used. Instead, every class engages in hands-on activities that require attendees to actively participate. For example, in the "Understanding the Human Body" class, participants work together to identify and understand the organs and systems that play a role in diabetes. In the "Health Management through Meal Planning" class, participants read a meal plan and then calculate and portion out the amount of salt, sugar and fat in that meal. This hands-on format keeps participants engaged and allows for frequent interaction, enabling a supportive peer network to flourish.” 

 James Harris agrees. He participated in DEEP this summer.  

“I found the DEEP series to be very informative and personable. Laura Gamba was able to help me get a more in-depth understanding of my disease and better understand how to manage it. I have definitely implemented some of the strategies I learned in the program.” 

Petrina Grandon also participated along with James.  

“DEEP helped me understand diabetes and how it impacts the body. The information I took away from each class has been helpful for both me and my family members impacted by the disease. It was not only informative but also enjoyable.” 

Published: November 27, 2023