Strong demand for diabetes-focused programme

Dunedin general practitioners (front, from left) Dr Zuzana Wheeler and Dr Liz Williams celebrate...
Dunedin general practitioners (front, from left) Dr Zuzana Wheeler and Dr Liz Williams celebrate the success of the first cohort of the "Take Control of Your Health’’ pilot programme, with some of its participants: (middle, from left) Lisbeth Lammers, Diane Anderson, Lorraine Benford, Shona Kennedy, and (back row, from left) Lynne Thompson, Hector Guthrie, Colin Hall, and David Tosh, in Dunedin on Saturday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A self-described lifestyle medicine programme piloted in Dunedin has proved almost overwhelmingly popular.

Dunedin general practitioners Drs Liz Williams and Zuzana Wheeler offered a WellSouth-funded, free, eight-week programme for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes that concluded at the weekend.

Early interest after a story in the Dunedin Star resulted in the programme’s 20 spaces filling up rapidly, Dr Wheeler said.

Consequently, she offered a second group of eight people the same programme free of charge.

Because the funding had been used up, her work with the second group was done on a voluntary basis, she said.

The second group was due to finish its course in three weeks and still there was a 60-person waiting list.

The programme, Take Control of Your Health (Taco Health), was both research-supported and "very practical" but also experimental for the participants, Dr Wheeler said.

Advice on healthy shopping choices, stress management, sleep, meditation, breathing exercises, and mindful eating was complemented by measured outcomes including weight, body measurements, and checks for diabetes parameters.

For six of the eight weeks, participants wore a continuous glucose monitor to learn what foods affected each person differently so participants were more aware of their bodies’ individual responses to the foods they ate.

"We encourage them to try different foods, see what happens with that, the effects, and that often leads to better food choices," Dr Wheeler said.

Not everyone’s measurable outcomes improved, but all participants said they were learning through the programme.

"For some, they have had a really dramatic change in eight weeks: lost weight, improved their sugar control significantly," Dr Wheeler said.

The doctors hoped to expand their comprehensive health programmes to people with other conditions, but would first seek further funding to continue, she said.

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