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Weis Pharmacy sponsors diabetes prevention program


Special to The Press

Some say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Nothing could be truer for the health care professionals at Weis Pharmacy, Schnecksville, who are offering an on-site free diabetes prevention program.

The program consists of several diabetes and heart classes for those in the community seeking to improve their health outcomes.

Weis Pharmacy, in conjunction with Wilkes University, is sponsoring the program.

The program is the brainchild of clinical pharmacist Nicole Pezzino, director of Community Outreach and Innovation at Wilkes, whose experience and training fueled her desire to establish the Group Lifestyle Balance Diabetes Prevention Program.

“When I was a pharmacy student at the University of Pittsburgh, I did a lot of work in a diabetic clinic, especially with managing diabetes,” she explained.

“When I graduated, I continued to work with diabetes patients, so I applied for a grant and I got it.”

The grant was offered through The Pennsylvania Pharmacy Association in association with the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“Weis has been instrumental in helping me pilot this program,” Pezzino said. “They’re supportive with community engagement, 100 percent supportive.”

The program takes a team approach.

The team urges participants to keep track of their eating and activities and weekly meetings and weigh-ins are scheduled in a room close to the Weis Pharmacy in front of the store.

“Here, you will learn about healthy eating so you can identify problems and triggers, make decisions for social settings and identify what works best for you,” said Lyndi Mies, the program’s main facilitator, as she welcomed members of her Thursday class.

Mies is the senior clinical regional dietitian and one of the program’s facilitators.

“We’ve done probably nine or 10 classes to date,” she said. “We keep our classes small because of space limitation.”

“Thursday morning, we have about nine and, on Wednesday evening, we have about seven,” said Elena Patestos, community-based pharmacy resident and another member of the team.

“We’ve had a lot of good success stories.

“In one cohort, they had already lost a total of 100 pounds collectively.

“I’m a full pharmacist but I’m just doing an extra year.

“I applied to do this program which gives the pharmacy extra time to specialize in a specific area.

“Because of the success of this program, we’ll be the first pharmacy to develop and create an umbrella hub which will help other pharmacies to offer and implement this program.”

Pezzino said she works closely with the vice president of pharmacy at Weis.

“I’m the state’s lead diabetic prevention program mentor,” she explained.

Mies said Nicole was the reason they were all there.

“Nicole started it and I came on a week later once I got hired,” Mies said. “When Nicole was in pharmacy, she did a residency and was teaching this program, so she wanted to start a program.

“She’s all about community outreach and wanted to be a community resource.”

Pezzino, who works for Wilkes University, said since she has a practice site at Weis, this would be considered a community center.

This is not the only program offered at Weis.

“We still do diabetes education classes for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes and we do screenings to help people,” Pezzino said.

Taira Fadler is one of the newest members of the team.

“I’m a dietetic intern from Cedar Crest College,” she explained. “This is my first rotation for my dietetic internship.

“Jan. 15 was my first day and I like it.

“I like that they are doing this for the community. It’s a great resource.”

Members of the team take their work seriously.

“We also do a lot of outreach ourselves,” Pezzino said. “We call those that might be having struggles with accessing social services, for example.

“We’re currently working to expand the program to more Weis stores and pharmacies.”

“We want you to be healthier, feel better and have higher energy throughout the day,” Mies said. “We’re going to help you along the way.”

Patestos said longevity is what changes habits, and the group setting helps a lot.

“[We encourage everyone to] try to be open to each other and open to change,” Mies said. “Give yourself some grace as you learn about new things.

“We will be here to support you.”

Taira Fadler arranged a platter of artificial food as a demonstration of a too starchy dinner. “My Plate is a newer version of the food pyramid,” she said. “It will help you make better food choices.” PRESS PHOTO BY ANNA GILGOFF
PRESS PHOTOS BY ANNA GILGOFF Lyndi Mies and Elena Patestos are part of a team committed to supporting all those determined to improve their health through their diet.
Director of Community Outreach and Innovation Nicole Pezzino is instrumental in establishing programs that focus on improving health outcomes for the community.