World Diabetes Day John Flynn

World Diabetes Day: From Devon to Delhi, can a text message can change your life?

Date: 14 November 2017

Today is World Diabetes Day. Some 415 million people across the world are living with diabetes: 1 in 11 of the world’s adult population. Preventing type 2 diabetes is more important than ever. Motivated by weekly text messages John has changed his lifestyle and kept type 2 diabetes at bay. 

Type 2 diabetes is a major healthcare problem across the world, yet recent clinical studies have shown that it may be prevented by changes in lifestyle, such as diet and physical activity. Most studies aimed at lifestyle changes involve participants seeing dietitians and attending physical activity classes during the study period.

While these studies have proved that such interventions improve glucose regulation among people who are at risk of developing diabetes, these kinds of interventions are very expensive to implement because they require a lot of staff to run the programmes and manage logistics. 

Mobile technology

A recent study supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is investigating the use of mobile technology to promote sustained lifestyle changes to prevent type 2 diabetes, both in India and the UK.

In the UK usual care consists of a one-to-one 30 minute interview where patients receive personalised diet and exercise advice, alongside other information about diabetes. The study involved one group being randomised to receive text messages after the initial 30 minute assessment.

John Flynn from Torbay in Devon was randomised to receive texts and hasn’t look back. He has lost weight, his average blood sugar level has improved and his blood pressure has reduced.

Simple, low cost and effective

John received text messages three times a week with treatment targets, advice, support and motivation. The messages were personalised to individual targets set at the initial interview.The benefits of participating in the study are clear to John, he says he is “fit enough to enjoy life and feeling good. I try to eat only small and healthy meals.”

“You cannot put it down to one thing, it’s a combination of exercise and diet, having a dog is big plus as she always wants to go for her walks. I would do it again. I would recommend it to anyone, awareness can only help in the long run.”

Professor Des Johnston, NIHR Specialty Cluster A Lead, said: "This is an important study that could offer a simple, low cost but effective way to keep diabetes type 2 at bay and improve the health of the population. We are eagerly anticipating the results but already we know that for some people like John, participating in this research study has made a significant difference to their lives."

The international study is now closed and the findings are being evaluated but watch this space. From Devon to Delhi simple text messages could soon be changing the lives of people like John. 


  • Summary:
    Motivated by weekly text messages John has changed his lifestyle and kept type 2 diabetes at bay.
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