New VA program targets diabetes in vets

Health officials at the Veterans Administration unveiled a pilot program Friday aimed at reducing the rate of diabetes among military veterans.

The 16-week program for overweight or obese people with pre-diabetes helps them get more exercise, improve their eating habits and lose weight.

The program is expanding to include VA medical centers across the country, including the one in Minneapolis.

Vietnam veteran Jon Soder, who has diabetes, says the program helped him lose 85 pounds and improve his health. Before he participated in the program, Soder said he was unable to walk. Now he walks on his own.

"I used to take three different kinds of diabetes medicine, and now I only take one," he said "And I used to take two kinds of cholesterol medicine and now I don't take any, so there was a real benefit from it."

When the program was tested at YMCAs in St. Paul and Indianapolis, it reduced the diabetes rate among participants by 58 percent.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who participated in the announcement, said helping the clients improve their health also leads to dramatically lower medical costs.

"To put someone through this program costs 300 bucks. Fifty-eight percent fewer become diabetic, and save $6,200 a year. That is what prevention is about," Franken said.

About one-fourth of the nation's veterans have type 2 diabetes.

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