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Thousands of people set to access diabetes and obesity prevention services through the touch of a button

NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have teamed up with leading companies from the tech sector as the battle against obesity and Type 2 diabetes goes digital.

More than 5,000 people are expected to benefit from a pilot project which will see five companies and eight areas of the country test drive a range of apps, gadgets, wristbands and other innovative digital products, which starts this month.

Users will be able to access health coaches and online support groups as well as set and monitor goals electronically. Some patients will also receive wearable technology to help them monitor activity levels and receive motivational messages and prompts, which is being made available on the NHS for the first time.

This online method of receiving support has the potential to have a similar impact to face-to-face interventions – helping bring down high blood sugar levels and in turn prevent or delay onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Heathier You: The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme was officially launched last year to support people who are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Those referred on to the face-to-face programme get tailored, personalised help, this includes; education on lifestyle choices, advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating and bespoke physical activity programmes, which together have been proven to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

This new pilot offers similar support, assistance and guidance but through the use of the new digital interventions.

Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, said “So much else in our lives is now about online social connection and support, and that now needs to be true too for the modern NHS. This new programme is the latest example of how the NHS is now getting practical and getting serious about new ways of supporting people stay healthy.”

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes, said: “Tackling obesity and the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes are the major public health challenges of our time. By April next year we will be providing the diabetes prevention programme to the whole of England – an evidence-based face-to-face programme that prevents or delays onset of Type 2 diabetes in those at high risk. Through this initiative, we have the potential to establish the effectiveness of digital interventions to do the same, so that the reach of the programme will be even greater.”

Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said: “This breaks new ground to help those at risk of Type 2 diabetes quite literally take their health into their own hands. Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a logical next step in diabetes prevention.”

Patients will be recruited over a six month period and they will be given access to the digital products for up to 12 months. The technology being trailed and evaluated includes:

  • Hitachi – The Smart Digital Diabetes Prevention solution helps people at risk to make a sustained lifestyle change to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes through personalised lifestyle goals. It combines an online portal – available through a smartphone or a desktop computer – which supports self-assessment, monitoring and management with a professional health advisor who provides regular advice and coaching.
  • Buddi Nujjer – A highly sensitive wristband which monitors the user’s activity, sleep patterns and eating frequency is paired with a smartphone application. People have access to 22 educational sessions via the Nujjer app which targets diet, physical activity and mental resilience and users receive feedback on their personal data.
  • Liva Healthcare – A dedicated coach pairs up with the user for 12 months starting with a personal face-to-face meeting. Throughout the year the user and the coach have around 26 digital personal coaching sessions and the Liva platform and patient app supports the patient with smart goal setting and plans, lifestyle tracking, video communication and online peer to peer support to encourage participation and lasting lifestyle change.
  • Oviva – An eight-week intensive lifestyle intervention with an experienced dietitian providing personalised advice and support. One- to-one coaching is available through a combination of a smartphone app and phone calls and supported by videos and podcasts covering useful topics on how people can eat more healthily. After the initial eight weeks, there is ongoing access to a dietitian and monthly follow-up calls up to 12 months to ensure healthy habits are maintained.
  • OurPath – A six week mobile and desktop digital programme with structured education on healthy eating, sleep, exercise and stress management. Patients also get a set of smart weighing scales, a wearable activity tracker, access to a social support network and a health mentor. After six weeks, users move onto OurPath’s ‘Sustain’ programme, which aims to keep people on track with their health goals for the long term. Individuals can continue to chat to their support group and health mentor, as well as access evidence-based education articles.