Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes in the Digital Age

There is a wide range of digital tools that are available to assist in type 2 diabetes prevention.

In part 3 of the Diabetes Prevention, Care, and Education in the Digital Age series, Ann Albright, PhD, RDN, discusses how health professionals can deliver a diabetes prevention program using both in person and virtual technology. This includes the National Diabetes Prevention Program, a CDC-recognized diabetes prevention lifestyle change program to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

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There are certainly a large number of apps for diabetes. They’re a part of care; they're not going to do everything for the patient, they’re not going to provide all the answers. They really need to be looked at as a tool.

[The National Diabetes Prevention Program. The National DPP is a CDC-recognized diabetes prevention lifestyle change program to help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.]

The National Diabetes Prevention Program can be delivered both in person and through virtual technology.

The National DPP has included delivery by virtual means since 2015.

There is a wide range of digital tools that are available to assist in diabetes prevention. And we are using the term, at the CDC, “continuum of complexity” really just to help try to categorize things because there are so many and we sort of look at what would be considered more low complexity, if you will.

Those are things like apps, things like using email and texting – some of the really kind of basic things that are out there that, at times, are really used more for tracking and for communication. So you can even think about any of the trackers for physical activity.

When you move to medium complexity as it relates to the National Diabetes Prevention Program, this is where you are seeing the program itself delivered using technology. It could be that it's being delivered by a coach who is in one location with a group of people in person with the coach, and they are broadcasting that class to another group of participants who are remote, so it can be that distance learning.

When you move to the higher complexity – now that you're adding these things together, so you may be using the lower complexity tools, you may also be having some elements of what would be considered medium. In the higher complexity, it means that the program really is delivered using all virtual technology as opposed to meeting in person with the coach. Even in the higher complexity virtual delivery, you still need to have interaction with the coach.

It really is around increasing access. It is really around being able to reach people who prefer to get this intervention in that way. But I do want to really emphasize that it is imperative that we have both in-person and virtual delivery of the National DPP. They are both necessary because if we're going to reach the scale that we need to – we estimate 84 million that have prediabetes – we need to be reaching millions of people. In order to do that, you've got to maximize both in-person and virtual.

There are many benefits to the health care professional, for referring the patient to the National Diabetes Prevention Program. It is important, first, that the health professional do screen/test their patient for prediabetes, and then refer. The referral does allow them to help their patient engage with a program that is proven to be effective. And we all know that health care professionals want the best for their patients. This helps reduce their demand on their time and their energy.

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