Fairfield Health Director Sands Cleary, in an interview several days ago, talked excitedly about a program on the drawing board to help people with pre-diabetic conditions such as obesity or a family history of diabetes to head off Type 2 Diabetes, which currently afflicts 24 million Americans

By the numbers, the disease is at epidemic level.

"The goal of the 16-week program," Cleary said, "is to help those with pre-diabetic conditions such as family history of diabetes or obesity to add exercise and nutritional changes to their lifestyle."

If those who volunteer to participate succeed, they should be able to short-circuit the disease process, preventing Type 2 Diabetes, Cleary and Fairfield's Health Educator Sarah Levy indicated -- at least, that is the hope.

They said volunteers signing up for the innovative program -- and sticking to it -- may expect to take themselves out of the pre-Diabetes 2 vulnerability zone. The program will have two components: nutrition and exercise.

Levy said the exercise part will probably be fielded in cooperation with an existing community entity, such as the YMCA.

The nutritional part will be taught by Nancy Ryan. She is board-certified in advanced diabetic management

Ryan is the Fairfield Health Department consultant who helped teach nutrition management to around 500 Fairfielders over eight years in a Department of Health "Lean and Lively" weight reduction program, run on $7,395 annual grants from the State of Connecticut..

Levy said in the spring, volunteers will be sought for morning and evening sessions of the 16-week two-hour pre-Diabetes 2 sessions. The morning session will run from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The evening one will meet between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Each segment will have places for 25 volunteers.

The program will be funded by a $7,395 grant issued by the Federal Community Development Block Grant program overseen by the State Department of Health, distributed by the state.

Cleary told First Selectman Ken Flatto and other town officials all about the program in a four-page memo dated May 27.

"The costs to the Town of Fairfield are 100 percent reimbursable by a [July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011] State of Connecticut State of Connecticut Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant," the memo said.

Observations on health control made by authorities and cited in the Cleary memo include:

"¢ Excessive weight gain and physical inactivity, along with hypertension and smoking are among major risk factors that cause over half of all heart disease and two-thirds of all stroke deaths in Connecticut.

"¢ Being overweight and significantly inactive increases the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

In addition, obesity increases the risk of cancers of the breast, endometrium, colon, kidney and esophagus.

Additionally on the health risk front, authorities from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) remind that approximately 61 percent of adults in America are overweight.

"One of the nation's Healthy People 2010 goals for the nation is to increase the proportion of people who consume no more than 10 percent of calories from total fat, thus increasing the potentiality of optimal weight control, and decreasing the risk of heart disease," Cleary said in his memo to Flatto and other town officials, including members of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

Levy and Cleary hope the Diabetes Type 2 prevention program to be launched in the spring will emphasize reducing excess dietary fat, increasing dietary fiber and will focus also on eating recommended portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, calcium and sodium as well as promoting 150 minutes a week of added physical activity.

The RTM will discuss and act on this grant revenue request at its Monday, June 28, meeting.