It was an honour for the NIHR Leicester BRC to be part of a large contingent invited to the Houses of Parliament by the Right Honourable Keith Vaz MP on Thursday 13 December to represent Leicester and showcase some of our collaborative work to help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes in our city at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Diabetes’ International Diabetes Summit 2018.
Under the banner of Cities Changing Diabetes – a global initiative founded by Novo Nordisk to tackle type 2 diabetes in the urban environment – delegates from Leicester presented their experiences of the scheme so far and how they have interpreted the initiative for our city and its diverse population.
In the afternoon, a panel discussion on Leicester as a case study was kick-started by BRC Director, Professor Melanie Davies CBE. Professor Davies said: “We are really proud to put patients at the heart of our research in Leicester. When we embarked on the Cities Changing Diabetes programme we knew that if were to make an impact we needed to work across the whole city and bring the pockets of excellent diabetes-related initiatives together to share our successes and learning to date.”
Dr Deidre Harrington, a lecturer in physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health at the University of Leicester, echoed Professor Davies’ words and added: “It’s about learning together to tackle the issue of type 2 diabetes head-on in Leicester to develop a collective solution involving academics, clinicians, sports clubs, public health and community groups.”
From an academic’s point of view, Dr Harrington also emphasised the need to use the projects that form part of Leicester Changing Diabetes to build an evidence base of the interventions that work. That is not to say that only projects that have an existing evidence base will be implemented, but that promising practices – ones that suggest a positive impact will be made – will be tried and tested using rigorous evaluation to inform future work.
Dr Sophie O’Connell, a research associate from Leicester’s Hospitals and project manager for Leicester Changing Diabetes, cited examples of schemes that have already begun through the initiative. She said: “We’re using the Diabetes Risk Score – developed in Leicester – in our communities to screen people outside our sports grounds, in places of worship and in workplaces – among other places.
“We’re making it our business to support employers improve health awareness among staff. In the past 10 months, we’ve screened 600 people, 250 of whom were deemed to be at risk, or very high risk, of developing type 2 diabetes. We have been able to signpost these people to appropriate support.”
Dr Natalie Darko, community lead researcher at the Centre for BME Health, which is part of the University of Leicester, described how the project has developed to reflect Leicester’s uniquely diverse population. She said: “The BME communities in Leicester have taught us how to provide bespoke and culturally sensitive programmes in places that are central to their lives. They have shown us that they are not ‘hard-to-reach’; instead, traditional prevention programmes do not reach them.”
Professor Kamlesh Khunti, co-director of the Leicester Diabetes Centre, rounded off the panel by saying: “As well as us learning from other cities on the Cities Changing Diabetes initiative, we believe they have important lessons to learn from us too. We intend for the Leicester Changing Diabetes initiative to leave a legacy for the city for many years to come.”
The session was kindly chaired by Councillor Adam Clarke, Deputy Mayor of Leicester City Council with responsibility for health and primary care. Councillor Clarke said: “I would like to thank Leicester Diabetes Centre for the light they have shone on Leicester by achieving Cities Changing Diabetes status. As a partnership we will turn ‘research into real’ at pace to start to turn the tide against type 2 diabetes.”
You can follow the Leicester Changing Diabetes programme on Twitter @Leicester_CCD