South Philadelphia: Diabetes Prevention Program Finds Audience at Fumo Family Library

At the Fumo Family Library in South Philadelphia on Broad Street, residents can not only check out a book, but can also check in on their health.

The Diabetes Prevention Program, sponsored by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and in conjunction with  Jefferson University Hospital, has come to the library at an especially apt time. According to the CDC, 86 million Americans, or one in three adults, now have pre-diabetes. Without intervention, 15 to 30 percent of this group will develop Type 2 diabetes.

Hoping to combat those statistics, the CDC offers hundreds of prevention programs throughout the country, most of them hosted in public spaces such as libraries or YMCAs.

Head librarian and branch manager Abbe Klebanoff believes the free program is especially important for the community.

The yearlong Diabetes Prevention Program thrives on three key components: a CDC-approved curriculum with handouts and other resources, a lifestyle health coach specially trained to lead the program, and a support group of people with similar challenges and goals.

A participant of the program, Susie Surez, showing her plate of healthy food to the group.

Participants meet once a week on Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m. for the first 16 weeks followed by once a month meetings for the remainder of the year.

Meetings begin with a “weigh-in” that helps each participant track their weight throughout the course of the program. Attendees then share what they have recently eaten and are offered guidance on how to improve future meals.


“It’s nice to have a chance to come in here and speak with other women about their experiences,” Kathleen McKoskey, 72, said. “I’m not alone in this. We’re all here trying to better ourselves and be more healthy,”

Although the program is for people with pre-diabetes, McKoskey has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She takes two buses and walks about half a mile every week to attend the program at Fumo. She said she attends as many programs as she can and appreciates the guidance she receives.


“So what we’re eventually going to realize is how best to read nutritional labels and what foods to buy and how best to prepare them,” Neva White, program leader and coordinator, said. “We’ll even get into which breads are best for you based on grain and fat content.”

White has been working with Jefferson Hospital for more than 15 years. Pamela Harrod-Smith, a health educator for Jefferson Hospital in the Center for Urban Health, also leads participants in developing an awareness of the foods they are eating and advises them on bringing more nutritional foods into their diet.

“If you’re eating a lot of meat, you’re going to be very sluggish,” Harrod-Smith said. “We’re going to learn about proper proportions. We’re also going to focus a lot on fiber, because, believe it or not, most Americans are not eating nearly enough fiber.”

Participants listen closely to each other as each woman shares her story.

Although the program is new to the Fumo library, it is just one of the things that appeals to the community.

McKoskey lives alone and said that without libraries, she would not be as social in her community. She often attends yoga classes and reading groups at the library and is  thankful that Fumo Family hosts health-related programs as well.

“If we didn’t have libraries, I don’t know what we would do,” she said.

 Text, images and video by Taylor Schwartz.

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