People in the Vale of York are being urged to eat healthily and be more active to help reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as part of a nationwide health initiative.
Diabetes Prevention Week (16-22 April) aims to raise awareness about Type 2 diabetes and increase knowledge about how to prevent the condition - which can cause strokes, heart disease, limb amputation and early death.
It is estimated that around 32,000 people in the Vale of York are currently at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
During Diabetes Prevention Week, GPs and other healthcare professionals in the Vale of York are encouraging residents to discover if they are at risk and take action to improve their future health.
In December several patients at Priory Medical Group, a GP member practice of NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), were among the first in England to be offered innovative digital technology to help prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
NHS England launched the nationwide pilot scheme in which 5,000 overweight people at risk of Type 2 diabetes were offered apps, gadgets and other digital products and support to help them exercise more and eat more healthily.
The Vale of York participants received activity-tracking wristbands and smart weighing scales from digital technology provider OurPath, which helped them monitor their weight and activity levels. They were also given access to one-on-one sessions with online health coaches, online support groups and a dedicated app to set and monitor exercise and diet goals.
And for many of these patients, the digital technology has really helped them to lose weight and adopt healthier lifestyles.
Self-confessed gadget fan Stephen Kitching, 54, from Copmanthorpe, has found these digital tools extremely useful in helping him lose almost 13kg (28.5lbs) since beginning the programme in January.
He said: “The thing that made it attractive to me was that I was told I’d get a fitness tracker which you can use to track your steps and your weight. That sort of technology ticks my box so I decided I’d give it a go.
“In the beginning they asked you to weigh yourself every day which was useful to monitor your progress and I’ve carried on doing that as it helps me (keep on track) because I like to see how much I weigh every morning.
“You can also message the online health coaches for advice, who also give you lots of encouragement. I’ve found it really helpful because you can ask questions - for example, is this yoghurt okay to eat? – and they come online and give you an answer pretty rapidly.”
Colin Brooks, 60, from Woodthorpe, is another who has enjoyed considerable success by taking part in the project, losing around one and a half stone (9.5kg) in six weeks.
He said: “My experience has been very positive and, after my long-term failed attempts at weight loss, it has allowed me to focus on, and achieve, weekly weight-loss goals.
“It’s been great to compare my efforts with other participants, as well as chat to and support them; while the digital technology has enabled me to follow day-to-day steps and set and achieve weekly targets. The online mentor is always really supportive and I’ve found this continual support to be really helpful.”
For Teresa Winter, 48, from Hull Road in York, the programme has given her a new lease of life after several unsuccessful attempts to lose weight in the past. She has lost two stone (12.7kg) in eight weeks.
She said: “For the first time in years, I actually believe I have control over my health and lifestyle. In the past I have struggled so much with yo-yo dieting, having joined umpteen slimming groups, only to quit within a few weeks and gain more weight.
“I used to be so tired after a hard day at work but now I just want to go out for a long walk, while I no longer have shakes when my sugar intake is low. I really feel I have a new lease of life – the programme is really a reset pathway, resetting my mind for life and is not just a quick fix.”
Dr Emma Broughton, a GP at Priory Medical Group’s Heworth Green Surgery, said: “It’s very warming to hear about some of our patients who have used these digital tools to help them lose a significant amount of weight – because diabetes and obesity are today’s major public health challenges.
“As well as face-to-face pre-screening services, I believe it’s also important to use widely available digital technology to offer preventative health services in an online setting.”
Meanwhile, from July, a separate NHS diabetes prevention programme will be available to every person in the Vale of York who is at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The programme is designed to stop or delay the onset of the disease through a range of personalised lifestyle interventions, including education on lifestyle choices, advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating and bespoke physical activity programmes.
Nationally, diabetes and its complications cost over £6 billion every year to treat and one in six patients in hospital has diabetes.
Nine in 10 people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes which is closely linked to obesity and yet is largely preventable by making simple lifestyle changes around diet, activity levels and weight management.
Vale of York residents can check if they’re at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes at www.diabetes.org.uk/risk
The City of York Council’s YorWellbeing health checker can also calculate your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years www.yorwellbeing.org.uk