HELENA – The Department of Public Health and Human Services marked the tenth anniversary of its statewide diabetes prevention program Tuesday in Helena.

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) started in 2008 and pairs patients with lifestyle coaches and helps them exercise more and improve their diet.

St. Peter’s Health in Helena was among the first sites in the state to offer the program, which the hospital calls Inch-by-Inch. DPP is aimed at those with a high risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Now, more than 30 locations across Montana offer the program and have helped more than 9,000 Montanans develop a healthier lifestyle and lose weight.

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At the anniversary celebration Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney said the diabetes prevention program really does save lives.

“This is a lifesaving and life-changing program. Making just a few lifestyle changes can truly make a difference,” Cooney said.

Liesel Curtiss knows well how effective the program can be. Curtiss participated in Inch-by-Inch at St. Peter’s after realizing she was at risk. She said the program was difficult and not for everyone.

“When a person considers this program, they’ve got to say ‘what’s more important in my life: food or health?’ If health is the most important thing, then the program is for you,” Curtiss said.

Curtiss said she was glad she stuck with the program, and the positive changes she made to her health will be permanent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than $30 million people in the United States have diabetes, a rise from the previous estimate of $26 million in 2010.

DPHHS said DPP reduces the risk for developing diabetes by 58 percent over a three-year period.

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