type 2 diabetes prevention
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Chanelle Corena, Type 2 Prevention Lead at Diabetes UK, highlights the 12.3 million people in the UK who are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and precisely why prevention and a change in behaviour is crucial in this vein

Diabetes in its various forms costs the NHS £10 billion every year; that’s 10% of its entire budget or, more precisely, £1 million every hour. One in six hospital beds in England are occupied by someone living with diabetes. These figures illustrate the pressure already being exerted by diabetes on our NHS.

Across the UK, 3.7 million people are currently living with diabetes, and a further million have the condition but are yet to be diagnosed. On top of this, 12.3 million people are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and five million are described as being as high risk. The number of people living with diabetes is growing, having doubled in the last 20 years.

90% of people living with diabetes in the UK have Type 2. As many as three in five new cases of Type 2 are preventable. A greater focus on preventing Type 2 diabetes is essential if we are to begin tackling the diabetes crisis and alleviate the burden diabetes puts on our NHS.

There are various risk factors related to the development of Type 2 which cannot be changed, such as age, gender, ethnicity and your family’s medical history. But there are other risk factors that we can modify, like weight, waist circumference and blood pressure.

Weight is the most significant modifiable risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes and is associated with 80% to 85% of the risk. The UK is one of the most overweight nations in Europe. If we are serious about curbing the spread of Type 2 diabetes and alleviating the strain it puts on our already stretched NHS, the obesity crisis must be addressed, with a focus on the changing the behaviours that lead to weight gain.

As well as investing in research to better understand unmodifiable risk factors, our work on Type 2 prevention focuses on behaviour change. Behaviour change is achieved both by creating an environment supportive of healthy choices, and by increasing the capability of individuals to eat better, move more and manage their weight.

We welcomed the Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement of his new Vision for Prevention in November 2018. We’re glad that the Health Secretary has recognised the urgent need for greater focus on preventing chronic conditions, and his highlighting of the fact that £8 billion is spent each year on prevention, compared to £97 billion on treatment, makes clear the need for a greater focus on prevention in the health service.

The Health Secretary will reveal his vision in more detail in a Green Paper in 2019. This is positive news, but we hope the Health Secretary recognises the importance of creating a healthier environment to prevent chronic conditions, as well as individuals living more healthily. Creating a healthier environment must include changes to public policy, such as the Soft Drinks Levy, which encourage healthier living.

Having said this, we do recognise the importance of helping individuals understand their risk and supporting them to make the lifestyle changes necessary to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes. In 2017, we helped over 150,000 people understand their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes through our Know Your Risk tool and gave them the knowledge necessary to reduce it.

We have also partnered with Public Health England and NHS England to support 100,000 people with lifestyle interventions through the Diabetes Prevention Programme. But with 12.3 million people at increased risk, this is just the tip of the iceberg and we know we need to do more.

It’s vital that government and industry take action to help create a healthier environment, in which the healthy choice is the easy choice. We’ve been campaigning for clearer, more consistent food labelling through our Food Upfront campaign. We want major food retailers to improve their labelling to help people with diabetes manage their food intake when they’re eating out, and also to help people make healthier, more informed decisions about the food they eat.

We’re also calling on the government to tackle the obesity crisis and help us prevent millions of more people from developing Type 2 diabetes, by introducing a 9 pm watershed on junk food advertising and by restricting price promotions on unhealthy food.

We’re excited to see the Health Secretary’s Green Paper, setting out specific policies to fulfil his vision for prevention. We hope that the government continues to take the action required to create a healthier environment for everyone in this country and continues to support prevention programmes, like the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, to ensure that as many people as possible in future avoid a preventable Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.


Chanelle Corena

Type 2 Prevention Lead

Diabetes UK

Tel: +45 (0)345 123 2399





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