Some of the educators with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County at work.

In Hillsborough County and the state of Florida, the rate of individuals diagnosed with diabetes is on the rise. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States as well as the number one cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations and adult blindness. The CDC also stated that in the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled.

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County recognizes the threat diabetes poses to the community and offers a Diabetes Self-Management Education Program (DSME) and a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). DPP is an evidence-based program established by the CDC with proven results to reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The core component of this program is that participants lose at least 5 percent of their total body weight.

Laura Rangel, health educator with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, shared what the overall goal would be for DPP.

“The goal of the Diabetes Prevention Program is to prevent participants from getting type 2 diabetes through consistent, sustainable weight loss,” Rangel said.

DSME is an accredited program which was created by a team of registered dieticians, health educators and nurses. Not only does DSME offer nutrition education, but it also provides ways to reduce the risk of complications from diabetes, how to increase physical activity and more. Rangel said that the goal of DSME is to empower each participant to take care of their health rather than let diabetes rule their lives.

In addition to DPP and DSME, it has other programs aimed to help people improve and maintain their health. For instance, the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County provides a wellness program called Get Into Fitness Today (GIFT), a children’s wellness program called GIFT-LEAP, a heart health program called BP for Me and more in English as well as Spanish. These programs are all free to qualifying individuals.

For those interested in learning more about when a class starts, call 813-307-8009 or email

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Tatiana Ortiz is a freelance writer with the Osprey Observer Newspaper. She began as an intern here in 2010 and has been writing since. Tatiana graduated from the University of South Florida in 2015. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. In her free time, Tatiana enjoys photography, biking and being with her family.