Teaching people how to avoid becoming a Type 2 diabetes statistic

Ahead of World diabetes day tomorrow (Saturday 14 Nov), a Brent GP explains how educating patients and health care professionals is at the heart of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme:

As a diabetes clinical champion my passion has always been to empower patients by getting them to take control of their health and wellbeing.

This is particularly the case when it comes to those who are on the cusp of developing Type 2 diabetes.   As all clinical professionals know, there is a great deal which can be done to improve the health of those at risk of Type 2 diabetes. Simple changes can make a big difference and can prevent or delay this serious condition.

When I give talks about diabetes, including to community and faith based groups as well as the newly appointed Diabetes Community Champions in my area of Brent, I find that people are happy to hear messages about prevention.

My passion for education isn’t limited to patients and the public; I also deliver education activities for health care professionals, including newly qualified local GPs and primary health care staff. In addition to that I also work with Diabetes UK to run advanced primary care training sessions.

As a keen advocate of diabetes prevention, I am very supportive of a successful programme in the Brent and Hounslow area. Its main focus is diabetes but it has now evolved to serve as a Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) programme. Its successful 74% completion rate means it has benefits across the board; not just in lowering patients risk of developing diabetes but also in lowering the incidence of other CVD diseases such as heart disease stroke and kidney disease.

Practices are really very keen to refer to the locally-run scheme and those who attend are very satisfied with the results; and did I mention there’s an impressive 74 % completion rate of those going through the six month course!

Those who take up the programme welcome the chance to take charge of their health and are tuned into the idea of being able to influence what happens to their own body. They’re receptive to prevention and are aware they can do something about their well-being.

Before being informed about the course, some were totally unaware they could take steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes and, once they have it, from getting worse. It’s all about the flow of information and when people know the benefits of taking action, by making some simple changes, they’re usually willing to give it a try.

Prevention is far better than cure.

The argument presented by some GPs that the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme (NHS DPP) could over medicalise has to be balanced against the fact there are so many people at risk of Type 2 diabetes. It is important for us to do something to stem the tide of people becoming patients who are at risk from the complications associated with this serious condition, and other related conditions.

Why can’t the NHS DPP be an illustration of how the NHS can promote health rather than waiting for sickness to develop? Patients have a right to receive evidence-based preventative healthcare. Wouldn’t it be better for me and my clinical colleagues to get out there and let people know that if they are in that high-risk category, they can do something about it, be empowered to say ‘enough already’ and put a brake on Type 2 diabetes before it develops? Yes.

The NHS DPP will reach out to those who need help and support, so they can take charge and make a difference to their own health.

Dr Joan St John works with the Law Medical Group Practice, Wembley and Willesden, within NHS Brent CCG

Joan has been a GP with special interest in diabetes since 2003.

She is the lead for diabetes in a practice in Brent which serves approximately 15,000 people and has around 1,000 patients with diabetes.