“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”-William Morris
Even though it was widely expected, it is still quite disheartening to know that a recent big Dutch study says that almost half of 45-year-olds will develop so-called prediabetes, an elevated blood sugar level that often precedes diabetes, 30 percent would develop full blown diabetes and nine percent would start taking insulin. This means that one in three healthy 45-year-olds will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime. Though this population sample is mainly white and Caucasian, the results in the UK could probably be worse as there is a significant ethnic minority population. Type 2 diabetes is known to occur 6 times more likely in people of South Asian descent and 3 times more likely in African and Afro-Caribbean people.
To the already overburdened healthcare system, this is a huge burden that needs to be tackled. Currently, the people with pre-diabetes would qualify for an intensive lifestyle prevention programme in the form of education, diet and exercise management. Though successful in scientific studies, these results are not replicated in the real world. The problem is that these people do not show any symptoms and the prevention of harm is not well appreciated. The management is challenging which needs a lifetime commitment and thus calls for a change in behaviour.
The UK has an excellent programme of structured diabetes education which is free. This is key and can be life changing. Most people who attend these have reported definite benefits. Diabetes education helps people to stay healthy, live well, and avoid expensive and life threatening complications. Though there is commitment to improve access to diabetes education, statistics show otherwise. For example in England, just 3.8% of newly diagnosed diabetics attend diabetes education. Not attending a course is wasteful, not only in terms of finance, but also a lost opportunity for people with diabetes.
The problems are manifold. There is uncertainty amongst healthcare professionals about the value of this education and inadequate data as to who is attending. For pateints the issues are - location and timing of courses, long waiting times, some do not appreciate the term “structured” education. Along with this, there is also the difficulty in getting paid time off from work.
Considering the importance of education in self-empowering and self-management of these people, it’s now time for some novel approach. There is a need of making this education easily accessible with the use of mobile technology, so that people can access these at a place and time of their choice. Use of online tools and telemedicine will facilitate healthcare and education. The mobile coverage of this age group is close to 100% and this has potential to transform this issue