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Diabetes screening and wellbeing service comes to food bank

5th Jun 2019

At a special one-off event, clients of Norwich Foodbank were offered diabetes screening tests, and health and wellbeing advice. The event took place at one of Norwich Foodbank’s busiest distribution centres.

The event was organised by the Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability Transformation Partnership as part of local work to prevent type 2 diabetes.

At the event, people visiting the food bank had the chance to have their risk of developing type 2 diabetes checked. Then, if appropriate, they were offered a test to measure the average levels of glucose (HbA1c) in their blood. High levels of HbA1c are an indicator of risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People identified to be at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be offered a referral to the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, to reduce the subsequent risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme is a national programme to help people make lifestyle changes that can prevent type 2 diabetes. Everyone who joins the programme goes to free group sessions with a qualified health and wellbeing coach, and receives personalised advice about diet and exercise.

The event was also attended by a representative from the Wellbeing service, who offered advice and signposting to mental health services. The Wellbeing Service supports people with common mental health problems, such as anxiety, stress and depression, through group and 1:1 work. The service also provides employment advice, runs a social programme and gives people access to Peer Support Workers.

Dr Clare Hambling, GP Clinical Lead for Diabetes, Norfolk and Waveney, said: “The risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced or even eliminated by making lifestyle changes, and eating healthily is an important part of that. When you’re facing financial pressures, it can be a struggle to eat well, and those pressures can affect your mood and wellbeing generally. We trialled this event to give clients of the foodbank immediate access to diabetes screening and health advice – we’re hoping that its success will mean we can also run it in other food banks in Norfolk and Waveney.

“We were really pleased to see that there was so much interest in the tests: we administered 17 initial assessments and 8 blood tests during the two-hour event. One person told us that his diabetes risk was something he’d been worrying about, so being able to be assessed then and there and be reassured was a great relief to him. We were also able to give the people we assessed some general advice on healthy living: all in all it was a very worthwhile event.”

Professor Garry John, a consultant clinical biochemist at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital who has an international reputation in pathology testing, attended the event to offer advice and support. Professor John said: “Many people who develop type 2 diabetes go undiagnosed during the early period of the disease. Identification of people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes will allow early intervention which may delay or even prevent onset of the disease. Measuring Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a simple procedure which can be performed on a small instrument, and uses only a very small amount of blood collected from a finger stab. The result of this test will enable the health care professional to assess how the individual is handling glucose and assign a risk to that individual”.

Hannah Clarke, Regional Manager for ICS, which delivers the Healthier You service, said: “The Healthier You: Diabetes Prevention Programme supports you to make changes to your weight if appropriate, your levels of physical activity, and your diet. You will get advice from professionals and be able to talk to other people using the Healthier You service. We know the prospect of making changes can be daunting, but with the support of the programme you can take control of your health and significantly reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes”.

Norwich Foodbank accepts donations of non-perishable goods which are sorted into nutritionally-balanced emergency food parcels. People in crisis are given vouchers by frontline care professionals which they can exchange for these parcels. Norwich Foodbank gives out around 10,000 parcels a year, from ten distribution centres, as well as giving advice and signposting to other services. More information can be found about their work at www.norwichfoodbank.co.uk

Hannah Worsley, Project Manager at Norwich Foodbank, said: “When people are referred to a foodbank, they might be receiving help and support with one or two particular issues, but there can be many more that need to be dealt with. By having services within the foodbank setting, we can offer immediate support to people who need it. We regularly hear from clients that they have skipped meals or not eaten well for a period before coming to us, and so we hope that working in partnership with health agencies in this way will have a positive impact on those we are supporting”.

Anyone who thinks they might be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and who wants to know more about their local Healthier You service should make an appointment at their GP surgery.

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