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Dunedin lifestyle medicine physicians Dr Liz Williams (left) and Dr Zuzana Wheeler are calling...
Dunedin lifestyle medicine physicians Dr Liz Williams (left) and Dr Zuzana Wheeler are calling for people with pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes to join a free healthy lifestyle programme. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
Two Dunedin doctors are offering the chance for people at risk from diabetes to take control of their health through a free, eight-week lifestyle course.

Lifestyle medicine physicians Dr Liz Williams and Dr Zuzana Wheeler have designed an eight-week group programme to help people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes improve their health.

The "Take Control of Your Health (Taco Health)" pilot programme, which is limited to people diagnosed with the conditions, is set to start at the end of this month, with funding from WellSouth PHO.

"We believe this is the first time a comprehensive lifestyle programme like this has been offered in New Zealand, with such close medical supervision," Dr Williams said.

However, for the funding to be activated, 20 people need to sign up to participate by May 14.

"We are desperate to go ahead with it, so we are doing everything we can to get the word out there," she said.

Dr Wheeler said the Taco Health programme would start and end with full-day sessions, offering practical hands-on learning about cooking, food labels, activity, stress management, sleep, mindfulness, and emotional health.

Participants would also receive base-line health testing, and would be offered recipes.

In between these in-person sessions, there would be weekly online sessions with the doctors, and group support via Facebook.

"Our aim is to help people to learn the skills to improve their health in the long term, in a way that will be sustainable for the future," Dr Wheeler said.

Among the positive outcomes could be improved sleep, energy, immunity, and mood, weight loss, reduced blood pressure, and a better overall quality of life.

Both Dr Williams and Dr Wheeler believe that programmes such as Taco Health could help to stem the tide of diabetes, which threatens to become a global health crisis.

A recent report from Diabetes New Zealand, entitled The Economic & Social Cost of Type 2 Diabetes, stated the number of people with the disease was predicted to reach "epidemic proportions" in the next 20 years.

There are about 228,000 New Zealanders (4.7% of total population) living with type 2 diabetes, which was projected to increase to 390,000-430,000 (6.6%-7.4%) as the population aged, the report said.

The current annual cost of type 2 diabetes to New Zealand, estimated at $2.1billion, was projected to increase to $3.5billion.

This would have a "hugely detrimental impact on the wellbeing of our people, but also on the sustainability of our health system and economy", the report said.

Type 2 diabetes was linked to a range of health issues, including poor eye and limb health, heart attacks, strokes, and an increased risk of cancer.

Prevention was vital for both the health of the population and the economic health of the country, the report said.

For more information on the Taco Health programme, visit or email



Research shows that moving to a whole-food, plant-based diet can reduce the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and can help manage and even reverse type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Cutting out fat-laden animal products and highly processed foods can also dramatically reduce your risk of developing diabetes in the first place.



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