People finishing the world leading NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme in the West Midlands have lost the equivalent weight of two and a half ambulances.
One of those helping to contribute is 70 year-old Herman Wheeler from Handsworth Wood near Birmingham who has already lost more than 6kg of weight having been a member of the programme for just three months.
Around four million people in the UK live with type two diabetes – with diabetes and its complications costing the NHS more than £10 billion to treat every year.
Nationally, 89,604 people have now finished the programme, losing a combined weight of 185,051kg, equivalent to 43 ambulances. In the West Midlands, almost 5,000 people have completed the programme losing a total of 11,199kg, equivalent to just over two and a half ambulances.
The world first service is the first of its kind to have achieved a full national roll-out.
With expert advice on dieting, exercise and healthy lifestyle, the programme will double in size to treat around 200,000 people every year as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Complications from the disease can include blindness and foot amputations.
Around nine out of 10 people with diabetes have Type 2 and there were over a million obesity diagnoses in hospital patients last year.
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 and one in six hospital beds are occupied with someone with diabetes.
A lack of exercise, poor diet and being overweight are all risk factors for developing the disease.
Herman, who is a retired psychology, medical law and ethics lecturer has found adapting his favourite Jamaican recipes to be a key ingredient in his fight against developing Type 2 diabetes.
“I’m absolutely determined to enjoy my five year old son growing up and live well into my 90s,” said Herman, who previously lectured at Birmingham University. “The Diabetes Prevention Programme has been brilliant at reminding me and informing me of sensible food choices and where easy swaps can be made.”
Professor Vinod Patel, clinical director for diabetes in the West Midlands, NHS England and NHS Improvement 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 prevent as part of our NHS Long Term Plan.
“Helping people avoid diabetes is potentially life-saving, so these results are encouraging, but ultimately the NHS cannot win the fight against obesity alone, which is why we are providing people with the tools to help themselves – changing lives and freeing up vital NHS resources.”
The 9-12 month programme is designed to stop or delay the onset of the illness 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
The NHS said that people can take small steps to take control of their health and lifestyles.
The increasing numbers of people receiving help from the programme come alongside an announcement last year that people can now benefit from digital services, including wearable tech and online peer support groups, to help more people to benefit from the programme.
Herman was diagnosed with a high blood sugar level in the late summer and is attending an NHS Healthier You Diabetes Prevention Programme at Lozells Methodist Centre. He credits the programme for making him much more conscious of diet and exercise.
“One of my favourite dishes is an authentic Jamaican breakfast called mackerel rundown, made with coconut oil. I hadn’t realised the hidden saturated fat in it and have simply reduced or swapped certain oils in my cooking. I’ve refreshed my understanding of eating lots of vegetables and the group is super for sharing food swap ideas and where to find healthy alternatives.”
If you are Chinese, South Asian, African-Caribbean or Black African the risks are greater for you getting Type 2 diabetes. However, this can be reduced by losing weight where appropriate, increasing physical activity and improving diet.
The success of the Diabetes Prevention Programme builds on wider measures to tackle both type one and type two diabetes in the NHS Long Term Plan.