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Is testing for diabetes in public places an appropriate use of resources?

Posted in: General Health 13 Jul, 2012

A new recommendation by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) suggests that people over the age of 40 should be tested for diabetes in public centres such as libraries and job centres, as opposed to having to make a doctor’s appointment.

Type 2 diabetes is likely to occur in older people, which is why it is presumed that they will be tested for the condition by their GP. However, for the people who fall through the cracks the consequences can be devastating, as untreated diabetes can lead to heart disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s, amongst other things.

Although in principle this seems like a logical solution to a wide-ranging problem, how feasible is it to begin imposing healthcare on people when they are in a non-medical environment?

The assumption is that people may not be aware that they are high-risk or even that they have already developed the condition. Because the symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop slowly, they are often overlooked. Although online medical questionnaires are a good way of determining whether or not patients should see a doctor in order to find out whether they have the condition, the majority of people are unlikely to take these types of test in the first place.

Professor Mike Kelly, from NICE, said: “Type 2 diabetes is a very large-scale problem and it is important for people to know that it is preventable, and there are simple steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of developing the disease. This guidance will help people to identify their own personal risk and highlights that by losing weight, being more active and improving their diet, they can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.”

job centre

Of course anything that can possibly be done in order to increase the number of people who are aware of the health risks they are suffering from is positive. However, the concept of bringing healthcare into day-to-day life seems like it might be overstepping the mark in terms of giving people the choice of whether or not they undergo testing.

An outbreak of chlamydia amongst 16-24-year-olds in 2008 prompted some councils to offer incentives such as free holidays to young people willing to get tested and the results were being sent out via text message. Although this system worked insofar as many people were diagnosed with the condition, there is an argument to be made for more money being spent on educating people as to how to prevent these diseases rather than waiting until they are infected abefore addressing the problem.

Type 2 diabetes is usually preventable with a healthy diet and regular exercise, yet education for young people is limited in terms of a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, government campaigns to promote healthy eating focus mainly on obesity and heart conditions, meaning that people of a lower weight may not realise that they are also at risk of developing serious health problems if they do not adopt healthier eating habits and a regular exercise routine.


  • RachelMonday, Jul 16, 2012

    Are there any estimates on how much it will cost to implement something like this?

  • Rosie WilsonMonday, Jul 16, 2012

    Thanks for your comment, Rachel. As this is so far only a proposal we have been unable to find a suggested budget. I'm sure if the government chooses to take it further such an estimate will be available. Do you have any thoughts on the concept itself?

  • RachelMonday, Jul 16, 2012

    In theory its a good idea, but I'd worry about how much it was costing the NHS, bearing in mind there are lots of stories going around about patients being denied care because of lack of funds.

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