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New data suggests that the healthy living programme resulted in a 7% reduction in the number of new diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes in England between 2018 and 2019, with around 18,000 people saved the dangerous consequences of the condition.
Someone completing the nine month NHS scheme reduces their chances of getting the condition by more than a third (37%), according to new University of Manchester research due to be presented at the annual Diabetes UK Professional Conference this week.
Prevention is a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which set out a major expansion of the Diabetes Prevention Programme.
People enrolled in the programme get advice on healthy eating and exercise that can prevent them developing the condition, avoiding the need for medication and complications such as amputations.
Evidence has shown that the NHS spends around £10 billion a year on diabetes – around 10% of its entire budget – and the NHS DPP is highly cost effective in the long-term.
Almost one million people have been referred to the programme since it was first launched in 2016, with participants who complete achieving an average weight loss of 3.3kg.
Since then, the NHS Long Term Plan expanded access so that up to 200,000 people a year will benefit as part of radical NHS action to tackle rising obesity rates and to prevent type 2 diabetes.
The country’s top diabetes experts are expected to say that the programme will improve the health of hundreds of thousands of people.
Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can have a devastating impact on people and their families – it is a leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and many of the common types of cancer.
NHS National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, Professor Jonathan Valabhji, said: “The evidence is now clear – the NHS is preventing type 2 diabetes and is helping thousands of people to lead healthier lives.
“Summer 2018 saw England become the first country to achieve universal coverage with such a programme. This latest evidence shows that the programme can have a major impact on peoples’ lives.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It is excellent to see the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, recently expanded as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, has helped 18,000 people avoid type 2 diabetes – a serious and dangerous condition.
“It’s vital we focus on prevention and provide advice on healthy eating and exercise, as obesity can lead to a number of serious health conditions and is the second biggest cause of cancer in the UK.
“Programmes like this are helping people to live longer, healthier lives as part of our mission to level up the health of the nation and tackle disparities.”
Emma McManus, a Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, said: “Type 2 diabetes is a growing problem. According to Diabetes UK, over 4 million people in the UK live with the condition and millions more are at an increased risk of developing it. It is a leading cause of sight loss and a major contributor to a range of conditions including kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke.”
“However, if you change your lifestyle, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes reduces. This is why the National Diabetes Prevention Programme, an evidence-based programme which delivers personalised support on weight management, healthy eating and encouraging physical activity, was set up. Our research has shown that the programme has been successful in reducing the number of new cases of diabetes.”
Emma Elvin, Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, said: “This research adds to the evidence that many type 2 diabetes cases can be delayed or prevented with the right support and further highlights how the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme can be a real turning point for people at risk of type 2 diabetes.
“For some people, combined lifestyle interventions – including diet, physical activity and sustained weight loss – can be very effective in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. That is why we need to ensure that all who can benefit from the programme know of it and are able to access it.”
Tariq Khan, a 35-year-old chef from Birmingham, started the DPP programme in November 2019 after a blood test revealed that he was at high risk of type 2 diabetes. He has lost over 6kg on the programme and says: “Life as a chef can be really hectic. I also had a sweet tooth which meant that I was eating unhealthily and often very late.
“The programme has enabled me to get control of my health by making small changes to my lifestyle. I’ve learnt so much about how my body works and how the choices I make can affect it. I’ve cut a lot of fried food and sweet treats from my diet as well as having smaller portions.
“The classes have been great because they have helped to keep me motivated when it could have been tempting to go back to old ways with being at home a lot during the pandemic. I’ve been staying active using an exercise bike as well as walking and doing the exercises shared in the classes which are helping me to burn calories at home.
“I haven’t missed a class and I know that what I’ve learnt will stay with me forever. Losing 6kg is such a big achievement for me and I feel fresher and lighter. I’m sharing what I’ve learned with my family and my work colleagues to encourage them to be healthier too. I couldn’t recommend the programme enough!”
Tim, a 47-year-old from Watford, who lost four stone on the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme and now runs up to five miles a day says: “The Healthier You programme is absolutely the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It was the wakeup call I truly needed when my GP referred me as my weight and blood glucose levels were rising.
“The group sessions tell you everything you need to know about how to lead a better lifestyle, including healthier versions of foods you were already eating and enjoying – for example, I’ve switched from rice to bulgur wheat and I love it!
“The health coaches are so committed to helping you achieve your goals, I can’t thank them enough – and my GP was also very shocked and impressed at my recent check-up.
“I’m still young and now I feel so fit and well, and have my whole life left to live thanks to the Healthier You programme. I would recommend it to anyone.”
Previous estimates suggest that the number of people with diabetes could rise to 4.2 million people by 2030, affecting almost 9% of the population.
Just under half (45%) of those taking part in the prevention programme are men – a much higher proportion than typically attend weight loss programmes.
Some communities are affected disproportionately by diabetes, with people of South Asian and Black ethnicity between two and four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those of white ethnicity.
Data suggests that people living with type 2 diabetes have double the risk of in-hospital death from Covid-19, compared to people without the condition.
You can find more information on the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme on our website.
This research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (Health Services and Delivery Research, 16/48/07 – Evaluating the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP): the DIPLOMA research Programme (Diabetes Prevention – Long Term Multimethod Assessment).