Published on 16 November 2023

Around World Diabetes Day we look at a benefit for Dutch people living with type 2 diabetes.

From next year a lifestyle treatment will be included in a basic insurance package in the Netherlands.

The reimbursement will benefit people living with type 2 diabetes and is available from 1st January.

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment and the Dutch Diabetes Foundation support the lifestyle program, which was developed by Dutch Foundation – Voeding Leeft ‘Nutrition Lives’.

A lifestyle treatment for type 2 diabetes will be reimbursed from the basic package for every insured person. The treatment is aimed at sustainable lifestyle adjustment and behavioural change.

According to recent estimates, 1.3 billion people worldwide will have diabetes by 2050. That is double the current number of people currently living with diabetes (Lancet, 2023).

Approximately 90% of these cases are type 2 diabetes, the form that is strongly related to an unhealthy lifestyle.

A focus on lifestyle treatment for type 2 diabetes is one way to reduce the risk of complications with the condition, including improved diet and exercise.

As part of the 'Reverse Diabetes2 Now' programme the costs for the specialized combined lifestyle treatment will be reimbursed for every insured person from the basic package. This is the first time in the Netherlands that a lifestyle alternative to regular treatment has been reimbursed on a large scale.

Type 2 diabetes is mostly treated with blood sugar-lowering medications, such as metformin and insulin.

Amsterdam Canal

Barbara Kerstens, Director at Voeding Leeft ‘Nutrition Lives’, said: “Because this does not address the main underlying problem, an unhealthy lifestyle, more medication is often needed in the long run. This is not a sustainable solution.”

The foundation developed the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment)-recognised 'Reverse Diabetes2 Now' lifestyle program to focus on pre-diabetes and diabetes patients.

Studies have shown that lifestyle plays an important role in both the development and progression of type 2 diabetes and that lifestyle adjustments can influence the condition in such a way that medication can be reduced or even become completely unnecessary.

Early figures from the programme found that 67% of participants took less diabetes medication two years after the start of the programme and 28% even stopped completely.

The Reverse Diabetes2 Now programme helps pre-diabetes and diabetes patients learn what works for them in terms of eating, exercise, relaxation and sleep.

This happens in a group and under the supervision of a nurse, a dietitian and a coach. The program ensures a significant improvement in quality of life and an average weight loss of 7kg. Since 2014, more than 5,000 people have participated in the programme.

The programme is backed by the Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment and the Dutch Diabetes Foundation.

Diena Halbertsma, Director of the Dutch Diabetes Foundation, said: “With a growing number of people with type 2 diabetes, we are heading towards a diabetes crisis. Things must change: from less medication to more healthy living, that is the only sustainable solution. We are pleased that the lifestyle treatment Reverse Diabetes2 Now from Voeding Leeft ‘Nutrition Lives’ is becoming more widely available to a large group of people with type 2 diabetes.”

While the programme is initially intended for the Netherlands, as part of the European Care4Diabetes project, training is underway in 12 European Union countries to run pilots of the benefit from January next year.

Following the UK’s departure from the European Union the programme will not be available in this country.  The project was selected as a best practice by the European Union and a grant has been awarded to 12 countries (Spain, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Finland, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Malta) for the pilots. 

Read more about type 2 diabetes

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