Health and Fitness

Hospitals teaching people how to prevent or manage diabetes


In May, Holy Cross added monthly healthy cooking classes over Zoom hosted by Cathy Whitt, above, a diabetes prevention lifestyle coach.

Preventing Type 2 diabetes and effectively managing Types 1 and 2 diabetes is vital to a person’s health.

In 2018, approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population was diagnosed with diabetes, or 34 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association. About 90 to 95 percent of the cases stem from Type 2 diabetes, which is impacted by obesity and being overweight.

In Florida, about 130,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, or slightly less than 10 percent of the 1.5 million new cases diagnosed annually across the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Given the growing number of people with diabetes, hospitals in South Florida have launched extensive diabetes education programs. Here, then, are a few:

UM doctor on healthy-eating mission

“Doctors seeing people who need to lose weight frequently tell them to eat less, move around more, cut out sugar and salt and see you in six months. And then they put you on meds. This is not the right approach … They’re being set up for failure.”

Those are the words of Dr. Michelle Pearlman, a specialist in gastroenterology, internal medicine, obesity medicine and diet and nutrition at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, as well as a leading educator on healthy eating to avoid Type 2 diabetes and other diseases.

“There’s so much information about dieting in the digital age; people are truly confused,” she said.

Dr. Michelle Pearlman University of Miami Health System

When discussing weight problems and diabetes avoidance with patients, Pearlman first evaluates dietary habits, food preferences, medications, family situation, budget, willingness to change and other factors. Then she offers “realistic, short-term goals such as eliminating sugary soda, as opposed to goals they have less control over, like losing a certain amount of weight every week.”

Pearlman tells patients about the basics of nutrition, the dangers of sugar and processed foods, different types of healthy and unhealthy foods, the need to read nutrition labels, good eating habits and other issues. “Make small changes, be consistent and experiment with new foods,” she said.

“I offer patients dietary and lifestyle recommendations using evidence-based medicine and current guidelines,” said Pearlman, who is assistant professor in the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at the medical school and has her own practice.

“If we ate like cavemen, we wouldn’t have the illnesses that are so common today,” she said. Early humans had to run and hunt or gather food, and then had to share it. They were obliged to get out of the cave and be active in order to eat. Trendy diets abound today, but cavemen didn’t have juicers and didn’t drink the sugar contained in four oranges or other high-sugar content fruit that we consume today in some juice diets, she said.

Working in coordination with UHealth endocrinologists, dietitians and other specialists, Pearlman develops long-term, weight management programs for patients.

For some patients who can’t lose weight through diet and exercise by themselves, Pearlman uses endobariatric procedures, where a small balloon is inserted in a patient’s stomach under anesthesia and filled with a saline solution. The balloon, which makes the patient feel satiated, is kept in the stomach for six months. During that time, the patient receives support for changing habits that can lead to permanent weight loss after the balloon is removed.

Beyond treating patients directly, Pearlman is a prominent advocate for healthy eating in the Miami community and at UMiami. She writes and is quoted in articles, does seminars and radio interviews, contributes to UMiami Health News and provides videos on the website.

A part of her educational work, she holds in-person and virtual seminars at the UMiami medical center, the university and the community, including lunches with faculty, resident physicians, patients, students and staff to discuss how to take better care of themselves. “Residents often gain weight because of their demanding schedules, and don’t eat healthy foods,” Pearlman said. Busy people frequently eat too much food from vending machines.

“Food – especially sugar – appeals to the same pleasure center of the brain as cocaine and heroin,” she said. “But the media aren’t bombarding us with commercials for heroine and cocaine. Food companies have huge advertising budgets, and adults and kids are constantly seeing sale pitches for sugary foods and beverages. People need to learn how to eat healthy.”

The UMHS also offers free, periodic webinars — UMiami Health Talks — where Dr. Pearlman and other specialists discuss diabetes, diet, cancer, heart disease and other topics.

For more information, see:,-diabetes-and-metabolism-/obesity

Holy Cross diabetes prevention

Holy Cross Health in Fort Lauderdale runs two programs for preventing Type 2 diabetes and for self-management of individuals diagnosed with diabetes.

Its Diabetes Prevention Program, started in 2017, covers a year-long period during which at-risk patients work with a trained lifestyle coach to learn about nutrition, physical activity and stress management. The overall goals are to create habits that reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

This program has received full recognition status from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all three modalities: in-person, distance learning and virtual education.

In January, Holy Cross launched a diabetes self-management program that includes individual and group education to people already diagnosed with diabetes. Participants in one-on-one sessions meet with a certified diabetes educator, develop their own plan and set goals.

In the group setting, individuals learn techniques for self-management and meet other people with similar challenges on the program’s telehealth platform. They discuss healthy eating, keeping active, blood sugar monitoring and problem solving, among other topics.

A key individual behind both Holy Cross programs is Kristen Schroeder-Brown, a registered nurse and certified diabetic educator, who is program manager for the Holy Cross Health’s Diabetes Education. Working with the Holy Cross Community Health & Well-Being Team, she set up the Diabetes Prevention Program four years ago, spurred by the high incidence of diabetes in South Florida.

Kristen Schroeder one on one with a patient.JPG
Kristen Schroeder-Brown, a registered nurse and certified diabetic educator at Holy Cross Health in Fort Lauderdale, consults with a patient.

The program started with in-person classes. “The majority of our classes at this time were facilitated at several community-based sites, bringing the program to vulnerable adults,” Schroeder-Brown said in emailed responses to questions from the Miami Herald. In 2018, they expanded to virtual programming on their website or app, and in 2020 launched their first distance-learning class via video conferencing.

“With the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we switched all of our classes to distance learning and virtual,” Schroeder-Brown said. “Our team wanted to continue providing these much-needed services to our participants, but also wanted to maintain everyone’s safety.”

Both programs are free and are open to Holy Cross patients, medical referrals and members of the public who meet certain criteria.

“Since 2017, our Diabetes Prevention Program has provided services to 1,028 participants,” she said. The self-management program so far has had 174 participants. “Collectively, since the prevention program was started, our participants have lost a total of 6,477 pounds, the weight of almost two cars,” Schroeder-Brown said.

Holy Cross also added monthly healthy cooking classes via Zoom in May 2021. “Cooking with Cathy,” hosted by Cathy Whitt, a trained diabetes prevention lifestyle coach, teaches viewers how to make healthy and easy-to-prepare dishes, and opens each class to questions from participants. Whitt, a community wellness specialist at Holy Cross Health, also has taught students and adults in the Broward County School System.

For the prevention program, the criteria includes being 18 or older, having a body mass index of overweight or obese, no previous diagnosis of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, not being pregnant and demonstrating certain blood glucose level test results.

For the self-management group, one must have a diagnosis of diabetes, referral from a healthcare provider managing the patient’s diabetes and demonstrate certain blood glucose level test results.

For more information on the two programs, see: and

Cleveland Clinic offering cooking lessons with YMCA

Cleveland Clinic Florida (CCF) provides a range of educational options for diabetics and people seeking help on proper nutrition at its Weston hospital, including:

One-on-one diabetes education consultation

Individual nutrition consultation, and

Monthly group classes on diabetes self-management and education

Group classes and support groups are virtual, while individual consults may be in person or online.

Cleveland Clinic has an eight-hour, monthly class for patients with diabetes and prediabetes that focuses on self-management education, Candace O’Neill, a registered dietitian in executive health at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston, said in email replies to questions from the Miami Herald. There are also two monthly, online support groups for these patients.

“Hundreds of people have attended the classes, support groups and consults over the past year. In addition, we offer support groups for patients who have had bariatric surgery,” O’Neill said.

CCF also has a partnership with the Weston YMCA. YMCA members can sign up on the group’s website for monthly educational lectures and cooking demonstrations on healthy eating and nutrition topics.

For more information, see Health Essentials at

Baptist Health launching diabetes prevention program

Baptist Heath South Florida is initiating a year-long, virtual diabetes prevention program in January 2022.

Designed for people with prediabetes, the free educational classes aim to help participants lose weight by eating better, being more active physically and learning to deal with stress.

To be eligible, participants must meet certain criteria, including being 18 or older, having a body mass index designated as overweight or obese, no previous diagnosis of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and demonstrating certain blood glucose level test results.

Baptist also offers virtual classes on preventing and managing diabetes.

For more information on diabetes, classes, treatment and prevention:

Jackson’s diabetes prevention programs

Through its seven hospitals and extensive network of healthcare center and specialists, Jackson Health System offers treatment, care and advice on nutritional support, diabetes prevention and diabetes management under its managed care programs.

For more information, search for weight loss and diabetes at

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