Essex residents are among thousands across England who have successfully reversed their risk of Type 2 diabetes through the NHS guided self-help programme.
The NHS Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP) – also called ‘Healthier You’ – gives advice on dieting, exercise and healthy lifestyle. It is being doubled in size over the next few years to treat around 200,000 people each year across England as part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s renewed focus on prevention.
From July, online versions of the DPP, which involve wearable technologies and apps to help those at risk of Type 2 Diabetes, will be provided for patients who find it difficult to attend sessions because of work or family commitments.
Lee Heard, 49, joined the Diabetes Prevention Programme in Essex and said it had changed his life. His daughter, Alice, 20, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 12 which spurred him on further to make a change.
He said: “Alice has no option to reverse her diabetes so who am I if I can’t do something about it? I have a chance to reverse this with the help of my course and my family, who are there 100% of the time pushing and supporting me.
“The support group helped me so much to understand my bad habits and how to correct them. I have lost over four stone and now go to the gym five times a week, working with a personal trainer and following a food plan. I have been on high blood pressure medication since I was 14 and this has helped to halve my prescription. It has changed my life by reversing my pre-diabetes.”
Jan Smith, 75, who also attended the programme in Essex, has said goodbye to arthritis pain in her knees – and 13kgs of weight – since joining the Diabetes Prevention Programme.
She said: “For me, the programme has been an all-round success. It helps you learn how to control your lifestyle to get any suggestion of diabetes out of your life. The programme was given to us in small but persuasive chunks, built on week on week until we reached an achievement.
“I have lost more than 13kgs, my blood sugar is normal and I no longer have pain in my arthritic knees. I enjoy discovering different foods to suit my new nutritional needs, I have more energy and an overriding sense of achievement.
“Diabetes is an insidious and dangerous game to play – this programme encourages people to change, even in the smallest way, and anything that does that has to be worth it.”
Dr Chirag Bakhai, a GP who leads the Diabetes Prevention Programme in the East of England, said: “Diabetes can lead to life-changing complications including blindness, kidney disease and ulcers requiring amputations. However, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme has already helped thousands of people across England reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and over 50,000 people have been referred to the programme so far from the East of England region.
“Every person who attends the programme is offered individualised support over at least nine months to help achieve a healthy weight, engage in regular physical activity and adopt a healthy diet, underpinned by evidence-based techniques for making lasting changes. With current trends predicting that by 2034, one in three people will be obese and one in ten people will have Type 2 diabetes, working to support people to make positive lifestyle changes and prevent Type 2 diabetes is essential for the future health of our population and for the sustainability of our health service.”
Diabetes and its complications cost over £10 billion every year to treat and one in six patients in hospital has diabetes. Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have Type 2 which is closely linked to obesity and there is strong evidence that in many it is preventable.
A lack of exercise, poor diet and being overweight are all risk factors for developing the disease. The programme is designed to stop or delay onset through a range of personalised lifestyle interventions, including:
• education on lifestyle choices
• advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating
• bespoke physical activity programmes
Recent projections show that the growing number of people with diabetes could result in nearly 39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035 and over 50,000 people suffering a stroke.
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England national clinical director of diabetes and obesity said: “Around two thirds of adults and one third of children are now overweight or obese, driving higher and higher rates of Type 2 diabetes that we are now focusing huge efforts to address, as outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan.
“I’m delighted that our work so far in this area has been producing really positive results. This weight loss is promising – and we hope to help many more of those who are at risk of Type 2 diabetes to not get it in the first place.”
Pav Kalsi, senior clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, said: “With 12.3 million people at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes in the UK, the importance of the NHS England’s Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Programme cannot be overstated. These figures show the programme is making a real difference to the lives of people at risk of the condition, and is helping them lose weight to minimise their risk.”
Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England said: “This is a great start, but with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and 6 in 10 people overweight or obese the costs to the NHS are unsustainable. That is why we are doubling the size of the programme to help prevent more people from getting this deadly disease.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “This is hard proof that we can help people with diabetes change their lives by arming them with information and, in the coming months, cutting edge tech. It’s why the Long Term Plan for the NHS – backed by an extra £33.9 billion a year by 2023/24 – has prevention at its heart, so we can help more people live longer and healthier lives.”