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Community Champions trained in university partnership


Students from De Montfort University (DMU) will be heading into the local community to assess people’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in a pioneering partnership with Diabetes UK.

As Community Champions the students will also raise awareness of the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes and provide people with information, including signposting them to local services, to help prevent them from developing the condition, or if they already have it to help them manage it.

The charity is training 50 Community Champions to go into schools, community centres and health organisations to assess people for their risk of Type 2 diabetes and to recommend GP appointments where necessary. The programme places a strong focus on working with people from ethnic minority communities, and the Champions will seek to engage with a diverse range of audiences.

The project forms part of the university’s DMU Square Mile Programme, which draws upon the expertise of students and staff to benefit the community. Originally working within a “square mile” area surrounding the campus, the project has now extended its reach, with Community Champions working right across the city of Leicester.

70% referred on to doctors

Trial projects between DMU Square Mile and Diabetes UK have already helped identify hundreds of people who had Type 2 diabetes without knowing as they had not yet been diagnosed. Through one roadshow held in summer over two days last year, of the 244 people who attended, 172 were referred on to their doctors due to their high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The Programme is Diabetes UK’s first Community Champions partnership with a university.

The Programme, which originally had a target of training 25 students, will train all 50 students who applied and a minimum of 100 students will be trained at the university over the next three years.

The Programme will be evaluated and measured to understand how much money it can save the NHS through helping to identify people’s risk of, and increase awareness of, Type 2 diabetes, and its subsequent impact on community health.

The training began earlier this academic year, with the partnership signed today by Bridget Turner, Director of Policy and Care Improvement at Diabetes UK, and Professor Andy Collop, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Leicester De Montfort University.

'Incredibly rewarding'

Zainab Ali, 20, a Pharmacy student at De Montfort University, trained in the Community Champion pilot Programme. She said: “I signed up for the pilot project – I knew quite a lot about diabetes because it is in my family so the topic felt quite personal to me. I have been able to focus on my studies but have still found the time to organise regular events and have found it really enjoyable. It is actually very relevant to my degree and it has been great meeting the public and has helped me understand the people I’ll be supporting in the future. Often people know very little about Type 2 diabetes so being able to explain how serious it is and how important it is for them to understand more about it is incredibly rewarding.”  

Bridget Turner, Director of Policy and Care Improvement at Diabetes UK, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with De Montfort University to help tackle Type 2 diabetes in Leicester. Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition that, left undiagnosed or untreated, can lead to devastating health complications such as stroke, blindness and amputation. However, identified and managed well this doesn’t have to be the case. With this Programme now being rolled out across Leicester, through assessing people’s risk of Type 2 diabetes and raising awareness of the condition, how to manage and even prevent it, the Community Champions will be making a hugely positive difference, giving people across the city the best chance of living long, healthy lives.”

David Hollis, DMU Square Mile Manager, said: “We want to be able support our local community wherever possible and to apply the work we do to the world around us.

"Training as Community Champions is not only amazing experience for our students but it is potentially lifesaving work for the people who have visited and who been referred to GPs. We know that diabetes is a huge problem not just in Leicester but around the world and our students have the potential to make a tremendous difference, thanks to this partnership with Diabetes UK.”

Aiming to train 1,000 in 2016

Research suggests that people from Black and South Asian communities are two to four times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and Diabetes UK’s Community Champions Programme has successfully reached people in these communities to raise awareness across the UK. Diabetes UK aims to have trained 1,000 Community Champions to extend this UK-wide reach by the end of 2016. 

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