Results published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, in the largest global population study of its kind, show how community groups can cut diabetes risk by almost two thirds.

Mens Group
Mens Group in Faridpur

In Faridpur, rural Bangladesh, an unusual lottery is taking place. At a community meeting 96 villages’ names are being put into a jar andcoloured, folded paper slips are being drawn into three different groups. These groups are experimental arms of an unusual approach to preventing diabetes in a country, where almost a third of its population is affected by the chronic disease.

The first group of 32 villages will receive m Health voice messages on their phones twice a week, the second group of 32 villages receive facilitated community group meetings once a month and the third will only receive usual care, visiting the doctor and paying for glucose testing if needed.

Before we didn’t have any idea about exercising. We didn’t know that diabetes can be controlled through exercise. We learned that from the meeting. We also didn’t know that we should eat more vegetables. We used to eat more rice. I was also like that.

Men's group participant
Male Group Participant
Weightlifting with a barrel

Diabetes risk reduced by 64%.

Fast forward two years and the villages where community groups met regularly to chat about health, exercise, diet and stress, had reduced their diabetes burden by a dramatic 64%, compared to the usual care villages.The m Health villages saw an improvement in people’s knowledge of diabete, but saw no changes in the burden of disease.

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Rather than focusing on high-risk individuals or those living with diabetes, we chose a general population approach that emphasised empowerment and community awareness raising to change behaviours and reduce diabetes risk. By the end of tthe project, villagers had a much better understanding of how to prevent and control diabetes, many had started exercise clubs and even lobbied local markets to sell healthier foods.

Ed Fotrell, Principal Investigator and Project Lead

What about the science?

Results published today in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology highlight the potential global effect of this practical, conversational approach to diabetes prevention. Funded by the UKMRC, this was the largest population
study worldwide to assess how to prevent diabetes in a general adult population of 125,000 people. Bringing people together in groups empowered them to cut their risk of diabetes by two thirds. The method is fun, engaging andcost-effective.
According to the research, if this community, “group-chat” approach was to be scaled up nationally, the government could save 51million US Dollars in healthcare costs per year. The majority of those costs are incurred by patients and their families.

According to co-principal investigator, Kiswar Azad, a smiliar trial is due to take place in the east end of London.

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