Supporting people to reduce their diabetes risk

14th December 2023

This week’s blog, is the second in our miniseries of three focusing on diabetes and self-management. This week, Dr Linda Edwards, explores how healthcare professionals can support people to reduce their diabetes risk.

The growth trajectory of diabetes

With the correct level of knowledge, Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable and very manageable. View this through the lens of the global burden of Type 2 diabetes, which is on a major growth trajectory, and we see that we need to reassess the way we live our lives as societies.

Between 1980 and 2014 the world prevalence quadrupled to 422 million people (8.5%). Within the UK alone, between 2018 and 2019, 3.9 million people were living with diabetes. What’s more, NICE predicts that by 2025 5 million people will have diabetes in the UK.

Type 2 diabetes is a major cause of premature deaths with approximately 22,000 people dying prematurely with complications from diabetes each year in the UK.

These figures are staggering, especially as much of this is preventable or reversable. So, where are we going wrong as a society? Is it food, lifestyle, beliefs? Whatever it is, it is global.

The impact of food and culture on diabetes

Worryingly Nestle, the food conglomerate faced with reduced sales of chocolate, ice cream and milk powder in some of the wealthiest countries came up with a plan. They decided to sponsor an Amazonian barge to sell Nestle products to people in the far reaches of the hinterlands of Brazil. Since 2010 the boat has delivered tens of thousands of bars of chocolate, milk powder, chocolate pudding, biscuits, and sweets to communities in the Amazon basin. And guess what? For the first time in their history these remote communities are developing diabetes and becoming obese

Many people in our culture buy ready prepared foods that are packed with carbohydrates, especially sugar. Add this to the habit of grabbing a biscuit or a piece of cake with a daily coffee; we can soon see why sugar intake has increased so rapidly. Add this to the more sedentary lifestyles of many people, sat in front of a computer for hours each day and we can see how the problems start.

What we can do

For healthcare professionals supporting patients to increase their activity levels and cooking meals from scratch sounds easy. However, as everyone is different, finding the solution isn’t always so simple. We know that by simply telling people they need to eat less starchy food and sweets and exercise more will not result in sustained weight reduction. Time needs to be taken to understand what is important to the individual. Is it being able to kick a football around in the garden with their grandchildren, or go on holiday with their families? Is it to visit a place they have always wanted to visit but can’t as they get tired too quickly, or is it simply to be able to walk to the village shop, go swimming again… the list goes on.

By taking time to understand an individual’s motivation we can support people to take their first small steps towards being able to live a life with less sugar and more activity. When these small steps result in success they can be built upon, helping people to achieve their goals and live healthier and often happier lives.

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in developing the skills to support people in creating and sustaining change, then take a look at our Health Coaching and Consultation Skills courses

The results of health coaching can be quite extraordinary, resulting in less financial burden to the NHS, and importantly helping people to live longer with an improved quality of life.At Education for Health, we also provide diabetes courses at postgraduate, undergraduate, diploma and CPD accredited levels. Take a look at our course portfolio to find out more about these interactive, online, short courses.

Next up

The third and final blog in this miniseries will explore Type 1 diabetes, which often gets overlooked in the avalanche of Type 2.