by Chris Gumble – 29th January, 2020

Chris Gumble is the Diabetes Project Manager at the South West London Health and Care Partnership. Here he describes his experience working with DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme company Sweatcoin on the Diabetes Prevention Decathlon project launched this week and funded by the Health Innovation Network’s Innovation Grant. 

 

There are currently five million people in England at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through lifestyle changes. If current trends persist, one in three people will be obese by 2034 and one in 10 will develop Type 2 diabetes. About 10 per cent of the entire NHS budget is spent treating complications from diabetes. Reducing this would have a major impact both on people’s well-being and on resources.

The Diabetes Prevention Decathlon launched this week is piloting a new type of diabetes prevention programme. Over 10 weeks we introduce people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes to different types of physical activity, we offer information and learning about health, diet, lifestyle, connecting to locally offered services, exercise as well as peer support and some good healthy competition. The aim of the programme is to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes by supporting and encouraging people to make positive behaviour changes in a way that is engaging.

Working with the South West London Health and Care Partnership we were successful in winning an Innovation Grant from the Health Innovation Network and so got to work developing and planning the Decathlon programme. We knew we wanted to work with a small number of people in similar situations and in the same area. We thought it was important to create a peer group that could work together in a way that is common among diet and weight loss groups but that went beyond sitting in a community hall and was more active. We want people to encourage each other and share their successes and support each other a getting over barriers of behavioural change together. Each week will feature one hour of learning and an hour of physical activity, all sessions being unique. Finding an exercise or activity that you like and that suits you can be difficult, especially if you’ve become overweight and don’t know where to start or don’t like the idea of going into a gym or a class on your own. We know that when people know more about their health and understand their diet and lifestyle choices they self-manage better. We had a huge response to the Diabetes Prevention Decathlon and were fully booked with 33 participants signed up in the first week. We are already planning the next session.

I came along to the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme launch event last September and was interested in finding a digital partner who could develop an online leader board tracking participants steps in between sessions. We wanted something that people participating in the decathlon could see how they were doing at the different sport and exercises each week and how they compare to their peers. We wanted it to be easy to use and accessible. Sweatcoin, having just started the Accelerator programme, presented a thirty second pitch about their product at the event. It’s an app on a smart phone that incentivises physical activity through rewarding users with products and services for achieving agreed targets. It’s like a supermarket loyalty card meets a step count. You get points, essentially prizes, for achieving physical activity targets that are monitored via your phone. Sweatcoin seemed to be coming from exactly the same place as we were; trying to influence behaviour change in an engaging way. Right away I thought we could work together. I had no idea at that time just how fantastic our collaboration on this project would go on to be.

We asked Sweatcoin to build us an online leader board, they gave us a digital world. Their innovative ideas and insight transformed our offer to people coming on the decathlon. Rather than providing an online function tagged on to what we were already doing, we worked with Sweatcoin to develop an entire new bespoke digital solution to programme’s functionality and aims. Now everyone participating in the decathlon can, if they wish to, download the app we have co-designed with Sweatcoin for this specific purpose. The app will track their physical activity through-out the 10 weeks and each person can collect reward points for achieving minimum activity targets. We then developed a catalogue of relevant and useful rewards with Merton Public Health that people on the programme can win with their points. Rewards include; a protein shake or coffee at a local business, one week the activity will be walking, that week participants can win a pair of headphones to use then they are walking for example.

There is a community giving aspect to the app where people on the programme using the app can donate their reward points to local charities. 

The education and learning aspect of the programme has been digitised now too, videos will be posted to the app summarising what the group learned that week and participate in a quiz to earn that week’s reward.

Developing the digital innovation aspect to the Diabetes Prevention Decathlon has opened it up to be more accessible, more engaging and we expect it to be more rewarding for people on the programme. We simply could not have imagined what exciting offers and different ways of learning is possible without meeting to Sweatcoin through the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator.

Follow Chris on Twitter: @DiabetesGumble

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