Digital and group-based lifestyle counselling to prevent type 2 diabetes shows real-world effectiveness

People’s diet quality improved and their abdominal obesity and insulin resistance decreased in a one-year lifestyle intervention, new findings from the Finnish StopDia study show. Looking at 2,907 Finnish adults with an elevated risk for type 2 diabetes, the study is the first to examine the effects of a group-based lifestyle intervention implemented in primary health care on risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The lifestyle intervention made use of a digital app and multiple behaviour change theories. The findings were published in The Lancet Regional Health — Europe.

The StopDia approach was developed in collaboration with multiple stakeholders

In the StopDia study, roughly one hundred health care professionals, including nurses, dieticians and exercise instructors, were trained to use the empowering StopDia group counselling approach.

“The approach is a result of many years of co-creation with health care professionals involved in group counselling, so we knew the approach was well suited to practice, but it was important to have strong evidence on its effectiveness,” says Professor Pilvikki Absetz, who was responsible for the behavioural side of the interventions.

Lifestyle changes were supported by the BitHabit app where participants could choose small health-promoting habits, mark them as completed, and get feedback on their progress. The app’s lifestyle library contains more than 400 habits that are suitable for inclusion in the everyday life. The BitHabit app was developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare as part of the StopDia study.

The StopDia approach to prevent type 2 diabetes was designed and built for primary health care with a view to supporting strategic health promotion objectives. Patient and non-governmental organisations, trade unions, employers and other stakeholders were closely involved in the planning as well as in the recruitment of participants by encouraging people to take a digital type 2 diabetes risk test and to participate in the study. In one year’s time, more than 26,000 people had taken the risk test, and the study recruited adults with an elevated risk for type 2 diabetes.

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