The global diabetes epidemic shows no signs of slowing. According to Diabetes UK, almost 3.7m people in the UK alone have been diagnosed with diabetes.1 And the International Diabetes Federation predict that cases of diabetes around the world will rocket by a whopping 55% by 2020.2
Of that rapidly increasing figure, 90% of diabetes cases are type 2, which means the body has become insulin resistant.2 While genetics can play a part in developing type 2 diabetes, lifestyle factors play a large part. High sugar diets, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute towards type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, they are all commonplace in modern Western life.
Where do we go from here?
Against this epidemic of type 2 diabetes, the healthcare industry is under growing pressure, both to treat patients and to reduce the numbers of people becoming diabetic in the first place.
So how’s it going?
GPs are the first port of call and are generally the HCPs to diagnose diabetes. Despite being medical professionals, GPs aren’t always specialised in the nuances of the disease. Patients, therefore, can be given quite generic information. Though useful, guideline advice doesn’t take into account all of the particulars of a person’s lifestyle, limitations, genetic profile etc.
Furthermore, according to the NHS’ website: “Your GP will do their best to discuss the diagnosis with you, but this first appointment might only be 10 to 15 minutes.”3 To wrap your head around a life-changing diagnosis, develop an understanding of your condition and how to manage it properly is a very tall order against such time pressures. This leaves patients walking away potentially confused, and at the mercy of less-than-reliable and contradictory information that the internet is flooded with.
Times are changing
Traditionally, insulin has been dangled over patients’ heads to shock them into the right lifestyle changes to help their condition. But from our years of experience working with leaders in diabetes care, we think different approach might be beneficial. We endorse a more positive, supportive approach over fear-mongering, which could only serve to increase the negative feelings and shame attached to type 2 diabetes.
Finally, GP knowledge might not always be fully up-to-date. Knowledge about diseases and accompanying treatments are evolving quickly. But GPs, due to a variety of time and budget constraints, are not always given refresher training. A GP who was taught about diabetes 15 years ago would likely have told a patient that they could eat whatever they wanted so long as they dosed insulin.4
It’s not all bad news
As rates continue to rise, and the diabetes monitor market thrives, med-tech businesses are beginning to offer far more than a simple finger-prick reader.5 Their products make it easier than ever for people to monitor their blood sugar and arm themselves with the information to learn what works and doesn’t work for them.
Intarcia has developed an incredible implant, ITCA 650, which is currently undergoing trials for approval. It’s as small as a match and is implated under the skin. It delivers the type 2 diabetes drug Exenatide for up to a year – replacing the need to inject daily or weekly.6
Phone Apps are leading the way when it comes to empowering people with diabetes. Fooducate is a free App that lets you scan nutrition labels of food to both track what you’re eating and get ‘health grade’ of foods for your diabetes. The NHS also has a series of free informative apps, including Low Carb Program, Mapmydiabetes and My Diabetes My Way.7
Broadening the focus
Furthermore, the healthcare industry seems to be moving on from a pharma-first approach towards a much more holistic view of diabetes. One that empowers sufferers and gives them more control over their disease. A far cry from simply ‘lose weight and cut out sugar’, we’re waking up to the multitude of factors that influence blood sugar levels. Like sleeping habits, exercise, mental-health techniques and a far more sophisticated understanding of diets.
One such man at the forefront of this revolution is Adam Brown, author of Bright Spots and Landmines. As someone who’s lived with type 1 diabetes for years, he learnt first hand that diabetes care is far more nuanced than he was taught at diagnosis.
The book is filled with his advice for moving away from ‘the darkness pervasive to diabetes’ and focusing on the ‘bright spots’ – the positive habits and behaviours that stabilise his blood sugar. He explains that:‘Ironically – and painfully – some of the most effective strategies are the opposite of what I was told at diagnosis, particularly around what to eat and the mental side of diabetes.’4
We really recommend getting a copy of it if you’d like to learn more about the 22 factors influencing blood sugar levels.
Evidently, diabetes is going nowhere any time soon and the NHS will likely continue to struggle under the weight of rising diagnoses. But a fresh perspective on diabetes that can empower sufferers, alongside advanced technology that makes management far easier gives us hope for a brighter future.
If you’d like to discuss anything you’ve read in this blog or see the work we’ve done for our diabetes clients, please do get in touch.
- International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 7th edn. Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation, 2015. http://www.diabetesatlas.org/
- Brown, Adam. Bright Spots & Landmines. The DiaTribe Foundation: 2017, California.