Abstract Type 2 Diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a complex metabolic, multifactorial disease, which affects the quality, quantity and style of life. People with T2DM have a life expectancy that can be shortened by as much as 15 years, with up to 75% dying of macrovascular complications. To reduce the impact of T2DM in the 21st century, we need an approach that not only optimally treats the person with established diabetes but also prevents diabetes from occurring in the first place. The best evidence for prevention of diabetes is for interventions that target individuals at highest risk. Targeting patients who have impaired glucose tolerance with lifestyle changes including physical activity and dietary factors has been shown to be effective in the Chinese, North American and Finnish populations. In order for such lifestyle interventions to be successful in other populations, they need to be culturally sensitive, individualized and sustained. Some pharmacological agents including metformin and acarbose have also been shown to be effective, although the profile of those who respond is different. There continues to be a need to develop and evaluate interventions that target communities and populations at risk in a UK setting.