Wilton Family Y Executive Director Bob McDowell was one of four YMCA leaders who recently met with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to discuss how Ys can help Connecticut gain Medicaid grants under the Affordable Care Act by implementing chronic disease prevention programs.

The Act authorizes these grants when Medicaid beneficiaries of all ages participate in prevention programs and demonstrate changes in health risk and outcomes, including the adoption of healthy behaviors such as stopping smoking, controlling or reducing weight, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and avoiding the onset of diabetes or in the case of a diabetic, improving the management of the condition. All initiatives must be comprehensive, evidence-based, widely available, and easily accessible using relevant evidence-based research and resources.

Mr. McDowell said, “As a leading nonprofit committed to strengthen our community through healthy living, the YMCAs are uniquely qualified to implement programs addressing maladies such as diabetes prevention, arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, and senior wellness.

“The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention program is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program and is supported by the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA) and the CDC. Together we are working to expand the program to help adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes take steps that will improve their overall health and well-being. Research by the National Institutes of Health has shown that programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can reduce the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes by 58%, and 71% in adults over the age of 60. The Wilton Y’s Diabetes Prevention program has been in place for three years and is now at six sites serving 135 people.

“In another area of chronic disease, the Wilton Y is implementing EnhanceFitness, a wellness program geared to seniors. Leading causes of death among older Americans are due to hypertension, arthritis, heart disease and other debilitating chronic diseases. Not only are these conditions highly preventable, they are also costly. Chronic disease negatively impacts quality of life, causing declines in functioning and severely limiting the ability of older adults to remain active members of their communities. A lack of regular exercise is the leading threat to healthy aging, affecting the majority of the older adult population. The Y’s EnhanceFitness is an evidence-based program that gives older adults a structured regimen of physical activity, incentives to participate, and the ability to track their performance and progress using validated measurements. The Wilton Y is currently implementing Enhance Fitness in four locations serving 145 seniors.”

As chair of the CT State Alliance of YMCAs, Mr. McDowell said the Wilton Y along with Ys throughout Connecticut are striving to expand chronic disease prevention programs to achieve healthier communities and a healthier state, while lowering the burden of health care costs on both individuals and government.