Research / Precision medicine and personalised prevention


Evaluating a digital health programme for self-management of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes

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Funding: $1,589,033 Timeframe: March 2017 – February 2020


What we investigated

Take | Issue

One quarter of New Zealand’s adult population is thought to have prediabetes, a condition which – with effective intervention – can be reversed before it develops into Type 2 diabetes.

People of all ages are now living more of their lives online using digital devices, not only for entertainment but also as essential tools for life.

Health service providers are looking to the digital world to see if it can help solve health problems, but there is limited evidence to show that digital health interventions are effective.

Whāinga | Aim

This project aimed to investigate whether digital technology could improve outcomes for people with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes – in particular Māori and Pacific populations who suffer from poorer outcomes for long-term conditions than other groups.

Huarahi I Whāia | Approach

BetaMe is an innovative digital health programme, delivered via web and mobile-based platforms, to support prevention and self-management of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes through behaviour change.

The research team ran a group of studies, including a randomised controlled trial, to assess the clinical and cost effectiveness of BetaMe in reversing prediabetes and improving self- management of diabetes, compared with usual care.


This project was funded by:

The Ministry of Health, Health Research Council of New Zealand, and Healthier Lives National Science Challenge, as part of the Long-Term Conditions Partnership.


Outcomes and Impact

Putanga | Outcome

The results of the randomised controlled trial showed no lasting benefit from using the programme compared to receiving usual diabetes care, and there was some evidence that it impacted negatively on quality of life. Those using BetaMe/Melon* achieved small improvements in HbA1c and weight at four months (greater for the non-Māori, non-Pacific group than for Māori and Pacific) but these had largely reduced by 12 months. There was no difference in changes to HbA1c or weight after 12 months between those using BetaMe/Melon and those with usual care.

*In 2018 the name of the BetaMe programme was changed to Melon.

Te Ara Kei Mua | Next Steps

To improve the development of digital self-management programmes in the future, more research is needed to identify which elements are effective at improving health and how people can be encouraged to keep using these tools over extended periods.

Health service planners and funders should exercise caution before investing in digital self-management programmes for long-term conditions. In the absence of robust evidence that a programme is effective, alternative approaches should be considered, especially for high needs groups.


Research Findings Brief

This study evaluated BetaMe/Melon, a digital health programme, and found that in its current form it was not clinically effective for controlling diabetes.

This is an important finding. Despite their promise, digital self-management programmes may not all be as useful as once thought in preventing and controlling long-term health conditions such as diabetes.

Robust evaluation should be undertaken before digital health programmes are purchased and rolled out.

Project Team

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