Diabetes is on the rise nearly everywhere, affecting 425 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Although this disease is pervasive, it is neither preordained nor permanent.

Exercising 30 minutes a day and reducing body weight by 7% can lower the prevalence of type 2 diabetes by 58%, according to the Diabetes Prevention Program, a highly regarded U.S. initiative to promote proven, relatively inexpensive interventions to stave off the onset of the disease.

Health systems worldwide have embraced this program to encourage more people to achieve these goals — and reap the long-term health benefits — through lifestyle changes focusing on healthy eating and physical activity. It is also a useful framework for the work Johns Hopkins Medicine does with our global affiliates to help prevent and treat chronic diseases.

For example, as part of our lifestyle medicine knowledge transfer program at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH), we recently sent two experts to Dhahran Medical Center in Saudi Arabia to present a two-day Diabetes Prevention Program training. A dozen JHAH participants got hands-on practice in motivational interviewing, supporting health behavior change and facilitating self-management skills. These future lifestyle coaches are now prepared to inspire others to improve overall health.

The Diabetes Prevention Program complements JHAH’s successes from its Tawazon Program. Taking its name from the Arabic word for balance, Tawazon was the first diabetes prevention program in the Kingdom. JHAH launched this initiative in May 2017 to identify patients at risk of developing diabetes with the aim to prevent or delay the disease and its complications. The program’s participants work to lose 5%–7% of their original weight and adopt a moderate physical activity program of 150 minutes per week.

It is gratifying to work with JHAH to enhance the impact of its Tawazon initiative, as well as to introduce the Diabetes Prevention Program to improve health at the population level — on a global scale.

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