NHS gives away wearables to prevent type-two diabetes
August 21, 2019
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is to give wearable technology to thousands of people who are at risk of type-two diabetes to prevent them developing the condition.
In pilot schemes, offering round-the-clock access to online advice significantly boosted the numbers taking up the flagship Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP). Almost seven in ten people referred to digital schemes took part compared with around half of those offered face-to-face support.
Up to a fifth of places on NHS England’s flagship Diabetes Prevention Programme, around 40,000 a year, will be delivered digitally. People who are at risk of developing type-two but who cannot make face-to-face support sessions will be the first to benefit from the expansion, which starts this month.
They will receive wearables from the likes of Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung that monitor levels of exercise, apps that let users access health coaches and educational content, online peer support groups, and the ability to set and monitor goals electronically.
“The Diabetes Prevention Programme has been a tremendous success for thousands of people already, and this new digital pilot further builds on that success,” said NHS national clinical director for diabetes and obesity Jonathan Valabhji. “I’m delighted to see such a positive response among younger working age people, which shows how a digital approach can expand the reach of patients’ services as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.”
Diabetes is one of the greatest public health problems facing the NHS, with almost four million people in England having type two. One in six hospital beds in England are occupied by someone with type-two diabetes, which leads to more than 9000 amputations each year. The NHS spends more than £6bn annually treating the condition and its complications.
The NHS Long Term Plan has a renewed focus on the prevention of ill health as well as expanding and extending treatment.
The Diabetes Prevention Programme, which has already helped thousands of people lose a combined 60,000kg, will be doubled so that 200,000 people every year can access it. The NHS will also trial very low calorie diets that can reverse type two.
Trials of the digital DPP, involving more than 5000 people, found:
- Over two-thirds (68%) of those using digital support were aged under 65;
- The average age of digital participants was 58, lower than the age of those using face-to-face interventions (64 years); and
- 16% of digital registrations were aged between 18 and 44 years compared with seven per cent of the same age group who registered for face-to-face support.
People who have completed the programme lost an average of 3.4kg, more than 1kg more than originally predicted.
“The success of the pilot’s early findings shows we are breaking new ground to help those most at risk of type-two diabetes to literally take their health into their own hands at their own time and pace,” said Jennifer Smith diabetes programme director for Public Health England (PHE). “Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a fabulous next step in diabetes prevention.”
Launched in 2016, the NHS DPP is an NHS England-funded programme supported in partnership between NHS England, PHE and Diabetes UK, helping people who are at high risk of developing type-two diabetes. Those referred onto the programme get tailored, personalised help including advice on healthy eating, physical exercise and managing weight, which together reduces the risk of developing the condition.