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NIHR highlights research supported by ARC East Midlands

Research demonstrating the short-term benefits only of a type 2 diabetes programme has been showcased nationally.

The study, funded by NIHR Health Technology Assessment and supported by ARC East Midlands, found there was no longer term advantage of a physical activity programme compared to a leaflet, prompting the need for new strategies to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle. It has been featured as an Alert on the NIHR website.

The Walking Away from Diabetes is a three-hour structured group education programme which promotes increased physical activity and healthy eating, along with information about how these behaviours can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers explored whether the programme increased long-term physical activity at four years. They also looked at whether adding interactive text messages and phone calls (Walking Away Plus) made the programme more effective.

According to the results, the programme was no more effective in the long term than an information leaflet. Although it led to a small but meaningful increase in activity after the first year, the effect was not sustained at four years.

The results also showed that people from the most socially deprived areas, who typically need most support to increase activity levels, were least likely to benefit from the Walking Away Plus programme.

The researchers conclude that new strategies are therefore needed to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE, who is the Director of ARC East Midlands and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “Research has already demonstrated the benefits of lifestyle interventions, such as healthy diet and more physical activity, but more research is needed into how to encourage the public to engage with and adhere to the advice given.”

Professor Tom Yates, Professor of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Health at the University of Leicester, and lead author of the study, added: “The results were similar in White and ethnic minority groups, which is encouraging. But we need to consider further why the most socially deprived were least likely to benefit”.

“The study took place during a period when there were rapid advances in mobile health interventions (such as using automated texts and calls). The UK now has the second highest number of people using smartphones in the world. We need to explore how to use this continuously advancing technology to deliver lifestyle advice, and to support monitoring.”

Published on: 5 Sep 2022