Background: The implementation of population screening and early prevention strategies targeting individuals at high-risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D) seems to be a public health priority. The current work aimed to describe the screening procedure applied in the Feel4Diabetes-study and examine its effectiveness in identifying individuals and families at high risk, primarily for T2D and secondarily for hypertension, among vulnerable populations in low to middle-income countries (LMICs) and high-income countries (HICs) across Europe.
Methods: A two-stage screening procedure, using primary schools as the entry-point to the community, was applied in low socioeconomic status (SES) regions in LMICs (Bulgaria-Hungary), HICs (Belgium-Finland) and HICs under austerity measures (Greece-Spain). During the first-stage screening via the school-setting, a total of 20,501 parents (mothers and/or fathers) of schoolchildren from 11,396 families completed the Finnish Diabetes Risk Score (FINDRISC) questionnaire, while their children underwent anthropometric measurements in the school setting. Parents from the identified "high-risk families" (n = 4484) were invited to participate in the second-stage screening, including the measurement of fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and blood pressure (BP). In total, 3153 parents participated in the second-stage screening (mean age 41.1 ± 5.6 years, 65.8% females).
Results: Among parents who attended the second-stage screening, the prevalence of prediabetes (as defined by impaired fasting glucose; FPG 100-125 mg/dl) and T2D (FPG > 126 mg/dl) was 23.2 and 3.0% respectively, and it was found to be higher in the higher FINDRISC categories. The percentage of undiagnosed T2D among the participants identified with T2D was 53.5%. The prevalence of high normal BP (systolic BP 130-139 mmHg and/ or diastolic BP 85-89 mmHg) and hypertension (systolic BP ≥ 140 mmHg and/ or diastolic BP ≥ 90 mmHg) was 14 and 18.6% respectively, which was also higher in the higher FINDRISC categories. The percentage of cases not receiving antihypertensive treatment among the participants identified with hypertension was 80.3%.
Conclusion: The findings of the current study indicate that the two-stage school and community-based screening procedure followed, effectively identified high-risk individuals and families in vulnerable populations across Europe. This approach could be potentially scalable and sustainable and support initiatives for the early prevention of T2D and hypertension.
Trial registration: The Feel4Diabetes-intervention is registered at https://clinicaltrials.gov/ (NCT02393872; date of trial registration: March 20, 2015).
Keywords: Hypertension; School-based; Screening; Type 2 diabetes; Vulnerable groups.