A Public Health Nutrition MSc (now Global Public Health Nutrition MSc) alumna has earned a flood of media interest and professional acclaim with her dissertation studying the prevention of type 2 diabetes with the help of a Weight Watchers weight management programme.

Carolyn Piper who graduated in 2016 with Distinction was the lead author for the study which found that more than a third of patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes avoided developing the condition after they were referred by their GP to a diabetes prevention programme delivered by Weight Watchers. The initiative helped more than half of those referred either to reduce their risk of developing diabetes or to get their blood sugar levels back to normal.

The UK’s national health and social care guidance organisation, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that certain commercial weight management providers, such as Weight Watchers, can help obese people shed the pounds. A Weight Watchers study in the US showed that a commercial weight management company was effective in reversing the trend of type 2 diabetes. But the effectiveness of this approach using primary care has not been fully evaluated and Carolyn set out to rectify this. 

The paper - led by Carolyn and co-authored by Agnes Marossy, Zoe Griffiths and Westminster Senior Lecturer in International Public Health and Nutrition Dr Amanda Adegboye - was published in the peer-reviewed BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care journal. It then went on to achieve extensive media coverage including in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sun, Daily Mirror, Mail Online, The Independent, i newspaper, Press Association, Sky News, LBC radio and others.

While attending the course part-time, Carolyn was already working as a full-time Public Health Programme Manager at the London Borough of Bromley where she commissions Health and Prevention Programmes including obesity, diabetes prevention, physical activity, stop smoking and substance misuse.

She said: “Diabetes is the most prevalent chronic disease in Bromley with 65 per cent of its residents either overweight or obese. It is clear that a diabetes prevention programme like that of Weight Watchers is needed to prevent the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”

During her course, Carolyn was awarded the University’s Ratna Das Memorial Award which is awarded to students who have graduated despite having experienced significant personal challenges during their studies, and in doing so, have been an inspiration to their peers.

Carolyn talked about the support she received on her course. “The fantastic Claire Robertson, the lead on my course, inspired, motivated and assisted me to choose this project as the piece of research for the dissertation from multiple projects I was working on at the time. Claire helped me to design the study and focus on what the important elements were to highlight.

“With the fantastic support of Amanda Adegboye and her experience in international research and statistical analysis, she ensured I performed the correct and optimal statistical analysis and presented the results correctly. Amanda was my dissertation supervisor and oversaw the whole project, start to finish. 

“Both Amanda and Claire read through the findings and gave advice, helpful comments and recommendations for improvements. As well as the huge educational support offered by the University of Westminster, the staff are the essence of its reputation, during my time at Westminster my Mother was sadly diagnosed with cancer and passed away. The staff were phenomenal during this time and I could not have asked for better support.”

Read Carolyn’s research paper entitled ‘Evaluation of a type 2 diabetes prevention program using a commercial weight management provider for nondiabetic hyperglycemic patients referred by primary care in the UK’.

Learn about the Global Public Health Nutrition MSc course.

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