The UK has for years been aware of the rapidly climbing costs diabetes has to society, the prevalence of which is predicted to rise. To address this, there have been numerous campaigns aimed primarily at promoting healthy weight and increasing activity in the general population. These have largely been educative, supplying people with information about why they need to change their lifestyle, what they could do and where they can go to do activities. All very important, but the question of how to make lasting changes to behaviour remains unanswered for many.
Services that help people change their behaviour and teach them how to self-care, are available, but tend to be private services which customers pay for or time-limited public services. Kirklees Council is taking an innovative, two-pronged approach to tackling diabetes using two digital platforms that employ cognitive behavioural techniques - Everybody Active and My Health Tools. Crucially, these are free for Kirklees citizens to use.
Both of these platforms are deliberately non-clinical, focussing on teaching self-care skills: setting goals, forming habits, and identifying barriers. Everybody Active is designed to help people get active - a key factor in reducing the risk of developing diabetes - and will act as a tool for prevention. With the recent addition of diabetes content, My Health Tools will be promoted to those who have already developed the condition, offering a holistic approach to self-care. A longitudinal study by independent researchers into the impact of My Health Tools, has already shown some positive interim results.
Middle-aged men are twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to their female counterparts, but are less likely to seek face-to-face help or join support groups - a rather unfortunate mix. In some instances, digital interventions for other conditions have been more successful in engaging with/treating men than face-to-face interventions. This gives reason to believe that digital tools could also be particularly attractive to men who have, or are at risk of developing, diabetes.
In Kirklees, the combined direct healthcare costs of diabetes is estimated to be over £74 million a year. Social costs such as absenteeism, early retirement, and social benefits, add to that amount. These costs are not just attributed to one organisation but are part of the wiser system and therefore preventing diabetes is a shared responsibility. However, with figures like these, even small successes in improving people’s lifestyle can mean a significant monetary saving for Kirklees - and is exactly what they are hoping will happen with more residents using Everybody Active and My Health Tools.