Health care providers play a key role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Research shows that medical providers are among the most important health messengers and that patients are more likely to adopt new behaviors when instructed to do so by their health practitioners.51 Providers can take the following steps to encourage healthy behaviors among their patients:
- Counsel patients with pre-diabetes about their risk of developing diabetes and develop a concrete plan for patients to help them decrease the likelihood of developing the disease.
- Refer high-risk individuals to appropriate resources for nutrition counseling and prediabetes education.
- Screen for overweight and obesity. Counsel patients who are overweight to lose weight. Set reasonable weight loss goals to avoid failure and frustration.
- Refer patients to local resources or services that offer weight loss and physical activity programs and/or provide tools to help patients make lifestyle changes, activity logs, or meal plan guides.52
- Provide information (e.g., handouts) on safe approaches to weight loss. Ready-to-use materials are available free of charge for providers through resources such as “Your Game Plan for Preventing Type 2 Diabetes: Health Care Provider’s Toolkit” (http://www.ndep.nih.gov/diabetes/pubs/GP_Toolkit.pdf).
- Encourage patients whose health permits to begin an exercise plan. Emphasize that even small steps can produce big rewards.
- Help patients set reasonable and realistic long-term and short-term exercise goals that can be measured over time so that they can see their successes.
- Build in accountability for patients. For example, after delivering the initial prevention messages and working with patients to set realistic goals, set up a reminder or follow-up system with patients who have been counseled to lose weight to assess progress and offer motivational messages.
- Acknowledge patients’ efforts to adopt healthier behaviors, even if the initial changes reflect only part of the change needed.
- Encourage lifestyle changes for youth and counsel their parents on the importance of exercise and healthy eating to help prevent type 2 diabetes.53
- Work with State Diabetes Prevention and Control Programs run by the State Health Department.
51 Logsdon DN, Lazaro CM, Meier RV. (1998). The feasibility of behavioral risk reduction in primary medical care. Am J Prev Med, 5(5), 249-256; and Inui TS, Yourtee EL, Williamson JW. (1976). Improved outcomes in hypertension after physician tutorials: A controlled trial. Ann Intern Med, 84(6), 646-651.
52 The National Diabetes Education Program has developed tools to support providers in their efforts to encourage healthier lifestyle choices among their patients. These tools are available free of charge at http://www.ndep.nih.gov/resources/health.htm.
53 Sinha R, Fisch G, Teague B, et al. (2002). Prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance among children and adolescents with marked obesity. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(11), 802-810.