The NHS is using Facebook to reach millions of men aged 40 and over who are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, to help them to change their lifestyle and avoid the condition.
The Facebook adverts will highlight the increased risk among white men of this age and encourage them to sign up for support from the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.
Research shows that men over 40 are particularly at risk of getting Type 2 diabetes and this risk increases with age.
The world leading programme, which supports those who are at risk of developing the condition to lose weight and adopt healthier habits, has already helped hundreds of thousands of people.
There are now 200,000 places up for grabs every year thanks to the NHS Long Term Plan.
The NHS will post a series of sponsored Facebook ads over the next three weeks which will let users click through to a quiz by Diabetes UK.
If their score is moderate or high they can refer themselves to a local service for support remotely or online, without having to go through a healthcare professional.
The NHS has fast-tracked access to the Healthier You programme after research found that people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 if they have Type 2 diabetes.
The new drive follows a successful national campaign in August last year which targeted Black and South Asian communities who are more at risk of Type 2 diabetes from the age of 25.
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity for the NHS in England, said: “The evidence is clear – obesity and type 2 diabetes significantly increase the risk that many of us face from COVID.
“And we already knew that for men over 40 in particular, the risk of type 2 diabetes steadily increases with age so it is crucial people in this group check their risk and get the right support.
“As we start to see signs of normal life returning, there has never been a better time to start living a healthier lifestyle and we want to support even more people to do this. If you think you are at risk, check your risk online – it is free and it could be life changing.”
More than 750,000 people have been referred and those completing the programme who were overweight or obese lost on average 3.6kg.
Public health minister Jo Churchill said: “We want to be a healthier nation and obesity is one of our biggest health challenges – COVID-19 has shown us it is vital we act now. This initiative between the NHS and Diabetes UK is designed to support people, particularly 40-year-old men, on how to avoid Type 2 diabetes. Now is a great time to check your risk and do something about it.
“The government has recently announced £100 million to support people achieve and maintain a healthier weight, and this is another initiative to help. By working together we can achieve our healthy weight strategy goals and halve the number of children living with obesity by 2030, protecting people and the NHS for a brighter future.”
John Harrison, 53, from Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire, lost 55kg through the programme. John said: “I was determined that lockdown wouldn’t stop me from getting healthier. I got great support through video sessions and was able to drop from 127kg in 2019 to 72kg in just 14 months.
“The virtual get-togethers were really useful – the online contact enabled me to ask questions and keep my momentum going. My health coach was also so knowledgeable and gave me an awful lot to think about but deciding on which changes to introduce is down to the individual. After all, you are the best person to make those decisions about your own lifestyle.
“Now I am 72kg, my quality of life has really improved and these days I can do so much more without feeling exhausted. I can buy and wear fashionable clothes including skinny jeans.”
John made changes that included reducing his fat intake, cutting down on his red meat-based meals and increasing the amount of chicken and pulses in his diet. He also started a new exercise regime and now regularly does a fast power walk five times a week.
The NHS Long Term Plan set out radical action to address the rising obesity levels and Type 2 diabetes, including by expanding the Healthier You NHS Diabetes Prevention programme so that 200,000 a year could benefit as well as piloting low calorie diets for those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.