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Families and Researchers Working Together to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

During the next 5 years, researchers and healthcare professionals will be developing and evaluating new methods of preventing type 2 diabetes together with disadvantaged families in which mothers have had gestational diabetes. Helle Terkildsen Maindal, Principal Investigator, Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and Associate Professor, Aarhus University, leads the project.

Almost 2000 pregnant women in Denmark develop gestational diabetes per year. Their risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life is 7–8 times higher than that of other women even though they are considered healthy after giving birth by the healthcare system and the women themselves. Further, research shows that their children have a much greater risk of becoming overweight and developing type 2 diabetes.

A new interdisciplinary and intersectoral research project will now develop methods of promoting the health of these families. The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a grant of DKK 7.5 million to the research project under its nursing research programme.

“Currently, no services are being offered to these families in Denmark although the research shows that eating healthy food and taking exercise can prevent type 2 diabetes. Mothers go home after giving birth, and the healthcare system provides no further help. In the FACE-IT research project, we will develop health promotion services in partnership with mothers because we believe they know best what works for their families,” says project leader Helle Terkildsen Maindal, Principal Investigator, Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and Associate Professor, Aarhus University.

From 2018 to 2022, FACE-IT will carry out a randomized controlled trial with 500 families in which mothers have had gestational diabetes. About half will be offered health-promoting initiatives developed in advance together with visiting nurses, general practitioners and the women themselves. The other half will serve as a control group.

“We know that we must focus on food and physical activity. But we need to develop the health education tools and identify the existing apps and social media that can support positive improvement – for example, by motivating family members to engage in physical activity that is relevant to their newly created families. We also need to develop the healthcare system so that visiting nurses, general practitioners and midwives create a coherent care pathway that supports the needs of the families,” says Helle Terkildsen Maindal, a nurse who has MSc and PhD degrees in public health.

Helle Terkildsen Maindal expects that the breadth of ambition and collaborative approach to promoting health and preventing disease will enable the research project to contribute to helping Denmark’s healthcare system of the future minimize social inequality in health.

The Foundation awarded the grant under its new nursing research programme, which was established in 2016 with the aim of achieving better treatment results through such efforts as disease prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. The Foundation has earmarked DKK 37.5 million for the programme to fund grants for five research projects of DKK 7.5 million each over 5 years.

Niels-Henrik von Holstein-Rathlou, Head of Research and Innovation Grants, Novo Nordisk Foundation, says: “We want to provide nursing researchers the opportunity to demonstrate significant, international and interesting research results that can contribute to improving people’s health, quality of life and life expectancy. This exciting and innovative project focusing on the prevention of type 2 diabetes in disadvantaged families has all the attributes to deliver the above objectives.”


Helle Terkildsen Maindal, nurse, MSc and PhD in public health, Principal Investigator, Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and Associate Professor, Aarhus University, phone: +45 25462320, [email protected]

Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, Novo Nordisk Foundation, phone: +45 3067 4805, [email protected]