New Zealand celebrates Diabetes Action Month – and the results of last year’s risk factor assessment highlight the importance of getting involved: Last year, more than 3,500 people undertook an assessment of their risk factors during the month, with 68% learning they potentially have a greater propensity for type 2 diabetes. The core purpose of the first Diabetes Action Month was to alert New Zealand that everyone is at risk of diabetes. Activities in November included a national roadshow that visited 33 locations in 14 towns and cities, and the launch of an online version of the risk awareness tool, so everyone could assess their risk
This study found that a tailored, theoretically based, SMS based, diabetes self management support programme led to modest improvements in glycaemic control. The effects of intervention were also seen in four of 21 secondary outcomes, including foot care behaviour and ratings of diabetes support. The programme showed a high level of acceptability with the overwhelming majority of participants finding the intervention useful and willing to recommend it to others.
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The reasons underpinning the considerable increase in incidence over the study period are unclear. This may reflect an actual change in the type 1 diabetes incidence in patients <15 yr. Alternatively, it may reflect an earlier age of onset without change in incidence over all ages, so that greater numbers of people are being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in adolescence rather than in young adulthood. This would be consistent with the ‘accelerator hypothesis’, which suggests that an increasing rate of obesity is a primary driver for an earlier age of diabetes onset [6]. Studies have shown an association between higher BMI and younger age at diagnosis [9], [10], [11], indicating greater adiposity in childhood may hasten the onset of diabetes mellitus. The ‘accelerator hypothesis’ predicts an early onset rather than increased risk [11], and a Swedish study examining type 1 diabetes incidence on a nation-wide cohort 0–34 yr showed a shift in age of onset towards younger ages, rather than an increase in incidence per se across the whole population [20]. Although we cannot rule out a similar phenomenon in Auckland, we did not observe an increase in BMI SDS among children recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, or an association between BMI SDS and age at diagnosis. In fact, we observed an actual increase in age at diagnosis which is inconsistent with the ‘accelerator hypothesis’. Thus, our data suggest a true increase in the incidence of type 1 diabetes in the Auckland region, and not changes driven by increasing adiposity.
To obtain data on HPs’ knowledge and recommendation of apps to people with diabetes, a second survey was conducted of the HPs attending the annual scientific meeting of the New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes (NZSSD) in May 2016. Immediately prior to the meeting all registered attendees (n=286) were invited to participate in the online survey via email. The data from the patient survey was presented at the conference in a 15-min oral presentation and attendees were encouraged to complete the survey. Paper copies of the survey were also available at the meeting. This survey remained open for 2 weeks, with a reminder sent at 1 week.
Owing to individual tailoring, participants in the intervention group received varying numbers of messages. Half the participants (92/183) received messages for three months, an additional 18% (33/183) chose to continue the messages for six months, and the remaining 32% (58/183) chose to continue the messages to the maximum nine months. Only three participants chose to stop their messages early. A total number of 76 523 messages were sent by the system to participants (median number of messages per participant 242 (interquartile range 122-511; range 14-2050)), and 16 251 messages of blood glucose results were sent into the system by participants receiving the reminders (68 (1-169; 0-917)).

Type 2 Diabetes is one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic and according to Diabetes New Zealand is New Zealand’s fastest-growing health crisis. In terms of diabetes diagnosis, Type 2 currently accounts for around 90% of all cases. Also of concern to health professionals is that there are large numbers of people with silent, undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes which may be damaging their bodies. An estimated 258,000 New Zealanders are estimated to have some form of diabetes, with than number doubling over the past decade.


This study shows the potential of SMS4BG to provide a low cost, scalable solution for increasing the reach of diabetes self management support. It showed that a text messaging programme can increase a patient’s feelings of support without the need for personal contact from a healthcare professional. Half of the intervention group reported sharing the messages with others. Traditional education for diabetes self management is delivered to individual patients, but there is benefit of support from other people being involved.45 This is particularly pertinent to ethnic populations such as Māori groups, in whom family have an important role in supporting diabetes self management.46
The average reduction of 4.2 mmol/mol (0.4%) in HbA1c seen in this study did not reach the level chosen to signify clinical significance in the initial power calculation (5.5 mmol/mol (0.5%) reduction in HbA1c). Therefore, this study is unable to conclude that the effects of the SMS4BG intervention are clinically significant. Although further investigation is needed, we believe the results have the potential to still be clinically relevant in practice, particularly among individuals with high levels of HbA1c, such as the participants with poorly controlled diabetes in this study. The unadjusted group difference on change in HbA1c from baseline was −5.89, −3.05 and −5.24 mmol/mol at three, six, and nine months, respectively. The main analysis, with adjustment for baseline value and stratification factors, showed a smaller treatment effect, although both results were significant at three and nine months. Similar results were found across major subgroups of interest despite the fact that these analyses were not specifically powered. These consistent findings led us to believe that the intervention shows promising effects on treating people with poorly controlled diabetes and warrants further investigation.
Māori Health Services at Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals delivers health initiatives under the philosophy of Tangata Whenua Realities, Ngā Pou Mana o Io. The health model of Mana Atua, Mana Tūpuna, Mana Whenua, Mana Tangata, operates alongside clinical and rehabilitation services, Mental Health & Addiction Services and Regional Community Services.
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