As a way to address the rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Western New York, Independent Health is partnering with Brook – a leading digital health platform for chronic disease management – to offer a CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program called Brook+. This structured, year-long lifestyle change program is available as a covered benefit with a $0 member cost share under all of Independent Health’s fully insured, commercial and Medicare Advantage plans.

Through digital delivery and on-demand content, Brook+ provides eligible participants with the tools and personal coaching they need to help them reduce their risk of diabetes by making realistic and sustainable lifestyle changes, such as losing 5% of their body weight and increasing their activity level to 150 minutes per week.

Users can engage with Brook+ anytime from anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or computer. No classrooms or clinic visits are necessary. Instead, it can all done from the comfort and convenience of one’s home.

Time to make a change

More than 3,500 Independent Health members have enrolled in Brook+ since it was first introduced at the beginning of this year. Sheri Cleary of South Buffalo is among the participants who have already experienced a significant improvement in their health thanks to the program.

Cleary first learned about Brook+ through her job as a care coordination assistant with Independent Health’s Case Management Department. It came at the perfect time. After undergoing emergency back surgery during the summer of 2020, she was looking for a program that could help her get back on track with her overall health and wellness.

“Prior to my surgery, I felt like I was a bit athletic. I ran three half marathons and many 5K races,” said Cleary. “Unfortunately, the surgery really brought me to my knees. It was a pretty intense recovery, and it didn’t feel like I was making any progress whatsoever. I had been physically inactive for several months and wasn’t eating well either. As a result, I put on some weight and my cholesterol level dramatically increased. I was not happy with myself, or the way things were going.”

As a 62-year-old with a family history of diabetes, Cleary knew she was heading down the wrong path and needed to make some lifestyle changes. Although she had signed up for a popular national weight loss program, it didn’t provide her with the type of one-on-one support she was looking for. However, with the Brook+ program, she found just that – and at no additional cost either.

“The problem with some other programs is there’s no one really checking in on you to see how you’re doing. They offer little advice other than you should follow their meal plan, which can be very expensive,” said Cleary. “I wanted someone who would be there to hold me accountable and keep me engaged. Upon signing up for Brook+, I was assigned my own personal health coach. Her name is Karen. She reaches out to me every day to share helpful tips and motivate me. I feel like she’s become a friend.”

Staying engaged with Brook+

Along with the expert guidance she receives from her health coach, Cleary uses the Brook+ mobile app to access a variety of webinars and videos that focus on eating healthier, incorporating physical activity into her daily life, and improving problem-solving and coping skills. She connects regularly with a group of 50 other participants for additional support and encouragement. Plus, she received a complimentary Bluetooth scale and fitness tracker* that allows her to easily monitor her daily steps, calorie intake and overall progress.

“The scale is pretty sophisticated. Not only does it show me my weight, it also tells me my BMI (body mass index) and how much I’ve either lost or gained since the last time I was on it,” said Cleary. “That information is then uploaded to the Brook+ app, which allows my health coach to check my results, too. Knowing Karen can see my results every time I step on the scale makes me work harder. Even when I’ve had a discouraging result, she’ll send me a message to remind me that weight loss isn’t a straight line. You’re going to have some days when you put in all the work, but the scale doesn’t reflect it. Having someone who is there to provide feedback and support makes such a big difference. In my opinion, it’s what really sets Brook+ apart from other programs.”

Getting healthy for good

Since joining Brook+ in March, Cleary has dropped 25 pounds. This has led to a substantial reduction in her cholesterol level, so much so that her doctor has cut her cholesterol-lowering statin medication dosage in half and is considering having her discontinue it altogether. It’s just one of the many reasons why Cleary couldn’t be happier with her decision to join Brook+.

“The way I feel now as compared to when I first started is night and day. I have more energy. I’m sleeping better. My clothes are two sizes smaller. I have three grandchildren that I can keep up with. And I’m starting to get to the point physically where I’ll soon be able to run again,” said Cleary. “I’m so grateful for Brook+ because I feel like I found my magic bullet. I’ve learned so much already. I have a new mindset now. I’m going to keep doing the things I’ve been doing. I don’t plan to stop.”

To learn more

Overall, Independent Health members who are currently enrolled in Brook+ have lost a combined total of more than 14,000 pounds. For additional information about the program and to see if you meet the eligibility requirements, visit www.brook.health/plus.

*For participants who complete four weeks of activity meeting Diabetes Prevention Program guidelines. Limit 1 per participant.