Combatting the Type 2 diabetes challenge

Type 2 diabetes is one of the greatest healthcare challenges faced by modern society but many of the consequences of the condition, both medical and financial, can be avoided through better management of the condition. At Health Exchange we are using education and innovation to combat the Type 2 diabetes challenge through offering supportive programmes to enable better self-management. 

A group of women attending a Type 2 diabetes management course

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is a huge and growing problem both in the UK and worldwide. There are an estimated 4 million people in the UK with diabetes and it is thought that 1 in 2 people who have diabetes remain undiagnosed, so the actual figure could be significantly higher (Diabetes UK). The number cases of diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate with a 60% increase in diagnoses since 2005 (Diabetes UK).

The human cost of diabetes is substantial. Complications of diabetes include cardiovascular disease, stroke, eye damage and amputations. The condition also impacts the day to day life of the individuals who have it and can often have negative consequences for a person’s mental wellbeing.

The cost to healthcare systems worldwide is also staggering. In the UK, spends £10 billion annually on treating diabetes and its complications (Diabetes UK). If action is not taken to address the scale of the diabetes problem soon, the cost of the condition alone could bankrupt the NHS.

However, much of this human and healthcare cost can be saved or reduced through better management of the condition. Through education about diabetes, its causes and complications, healthier diet and physical activity, it is possible to enable individuals to take control of their condition, reduce their need for medication and minimise their risk of complications. In some cases, it is even possible to go into remission from diabetes through adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Health Exchange provides diabetes education courses to individuals who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the last 12 months and are registered to one of sixty GPs in the Birmingham South Central and Cross City areas. We are working to combat the diabetes challenge through supporting people to make positive, long-term and sustainable changes to their behaviour which result in a healthier lifestyle and successful diabetes management for that individual.

Uptake rates on these kinds of programmes are often very low, and ours has at times been no exception. Often, providers have to invite at least three times the desired amount of people in order to fill a course. However, in response to this trend we have looked at innovative ways to engage with more people, make the courses more accessible, increase attendance and raise awareness for the importance of diabetes management.

Our innovation has included…

  • Offering evening and weekend courses to fit around individual’s work or childcare commitments
  • Offering courses in a variety of languages spoken by local people and high risk groups
  • Making announcements in community and faith venues to target high risk groups
  • Offering condensed courses for people who have work or childcare commitments or busy schedules
  • Providing online videos of sessions with questions included throughout to check understanding
  • Community TV and Radio interviews
  • Targeting carers of people with Type 2 diabetes as they can be the driving force to get them to attend sessions. We also encourage carers to come along to the sessions, so both the patient and the carer have a better understanding of the condition and how to manage it
  • Going into community venues to talk to individuals and groups directly about what diabetes is and the benefits of joining the course

The results of our innovation…

Following the above activity, we saw an increase in referrals, attendance and completers for the courses.

  • Full attendance on weekend courses
  • 58.3% increase in referrals from Q3 to Q4 – 180 to 285
  • 200% increase in courses provided from Q3 to Q4 – 13 to 39
  • 333.33% increase in completers from Q3 to Q4 – 42 to 182

We were able to both increase engagement with GPs and also increase participation and engagement amongst the patients referred, encouraging more of them onto a course and motivating them to continue attending.


Number of people with Type 2 diabetes and number of undiagnosed cases:

Risk to NHS and percentage increase of diagnoses:

UK Cost of diabetes from Diabetes UK:

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