RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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A smart web aid for preventing diabetes in rural China: preliminary findings and lessons.

BACKGROUND: Increasing cases of diabetes, a general lack of routinely operational prevention, and a long history of separating disease prevention and treatment call for immediate engagement of frontier clinicians. This applies especially to village doctors who work in rural China where the majority of the nation's vast population lives.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to develop and test an online Smart Web Aid for Preventing Type 2 Diabetes (SWAP-DM2) capable of addressing major barriers to applying proven interventions and integrating diabetes prevention into routine medical care.

METHODS: Development of SWAP-DM2 used evolutionary prototyping. The design of the initial system was followed by refinement cycles featuring dynamic interaction between development of practical and effective standardized operation procedures (SOPs) for diabetes prevention and Web-based assistance for implementing the SOPs. The resulting SOPs incorporated proven diabetes prevention practices in a synergetic way. SWAP-DM2 provided support to village doctors ranging from simple educational webpages and record maintenance to relatively sophisticated risk scoring and personalized counseling. Evaluation of SWAP-DM2 used data collected at baseline and 6-month follow-up assessment: (1) audio recordings of service encounters; (2) structured exit surveys of patients' knowledge, self-efficacy, and satisfaction; (3) measurement of fasting glucose, body mass index, and blood pressure; and (4) qualitative interviews with doctors and patients. Data analysis included (1) descriptive statistics of patients who received SWAP-DM2-assisted prevention and those newly diagnosed with prediabetes and diabetes; (2) comparison of the variables assessed between baseline and follow-up assessment; and (3) narratives of qualitative data.

RESULTS: The 17 participating village doctors identified 2219 patients with elevated diabetes risk. Of these, 84.85% (1885/2219) consented to a fasting glucose test with 1022 new prediabetes and 113 new diabetes diagnoses made within 6 months. The prediabetic patients showed substantial improvement from baseline to 6-month follow-up in vegetable intake (17.0%, 43/253 vs 88.7%, 205/231), calorie intake (1.6%, 4/253 vs 71.4%, 165/231), leisure-time exercises (6.3%, 16/253 vs 21.2%, 49/231), body weight (mean 62.12 kg, SD 9.85 vs mean 58.33 kg, SD 9.18), and body mass index (mean 24.80 kg/m(2), SD 3.21 vs mean 23.36 kg/m(2), SD 2.95). The prediabetic patients showed improvement in self-efficacy for modifying diet (mean 5.31, SD 2.81 vs mean 8.53, SD 2.25), increasing physical activities (mean 4.52, SD 3.35 vs mean 8.06, SD 2.38), engaging relatives (mean 3.93, SD 3.54 vs mean 6.93, SD 2.67), and knowledge about diabetes and risks of an imbalanced diet and inadequate physical activity. Most participating doctors and patients viewed SWAP-DM2 as useful and effective.

CONCLUSIONS: SWAP-DM2 is helpful to village doctors, acceptable to patients, and effective in modifying immediate determinants of diabetes at least in the short term, and may provide a useful solution to the general lack of participation in diabetes prevention by frontier clinicians in rural China.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 66772711; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN66772711.

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