Diabetes – self care is the key piece of the puzzle

Dr Matt Jameson Evans, Chief Medical Officer

Diabetes affects a staggering three million people within the UK, and around 800,000 more have the condition but are unaware of it. These numbers are expected to rise significantly over the next ten years, reducing quality of life to those affected and putting further strain on the healthcare system.

Type II diabetes, the most common form, is usually a preventable condition. Diet, fitness and other lifestyle factors have a massive impact not only on whether someone gets it or not, but on the speed and course of the disease progression and its (often severe) complications. Diabetes is also one of the most discussed conditions in the HealthUnlocked online communities, reflecting both the volume of people affected and how many day to day issues are linked to diabetes for some of our users.

Several scientific studies have shown how people getting knowledgeable, confident and proactive with their own diabetes can be critical and make a big difference to their wellbeing and long term health. By that I mean they live longer, experience less pain, complications, anxiety, depression and fatigue, have a better quality of life and be more active and independent. This requires clinicians and patients to dig deep. If medics can’t help patients face up to those difficult lifestyle changes and support them to manage complicated drug regimes at home, much of the effort on both sides will be in vain.

Having met many people living with diabetes as a clinician, I also realise changing behaviour is easier to advise than do yourself. As a chronic, everyday condition there’s never a holiday from diabetes. It requires constant management and even the most knowledgeable, organised and inclined person can find this challenging. However, an increasing amount of evidence points to the need to support people to pick themselves up from any setbacks and continue that lifelong quest to take on the fight from within them.

Often medical information can be complex, full of jargon, overwhelming and difficult to process. And yet we recognise that information needs to be accessible, to help people manage their condition and health as positively as they can. HealthUnlocked communities are designed to help with this. We use the experiences and information of others to help people better understand how they can overcome their own challenges.

Our goal now is to make these communities more personalised and relevant, and to automatically unlock the most impactful posts that other users are submitting. We have some wonderful partners focused on achieving this, such as the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation charity who have created a dedicated community in HealthUnlocked. Our work with the NHS will also build further on this – we are partnering NHS organisations to help them recommend services and communities so that everyone diagnosed with diabetes has a supportive self care network around them wherever they are.

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