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VTT, University of Eastern Finland and THL develop individual data-driven solutions for the prevention of type 2 diabetes

  • Health and well-being
  • Technology and innovations

When it comes to promoting health, there is rarely a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. VTT, the University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) have launched the T2D-Data project, supported by the Academy of Finland, in which they develop personalized services for the prevention of type 2 diabetes by using health data, artificial intelligence and statistical methods. The study will yield new information and solutions for supporting permanent lifestyle changes, improve the well-being of those at risk of diabetes and, eventually, generate savings for the society.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious global health problem that is largely preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Digital services are being used more and more to support healthy lifestyles and prevent lifestyle diseases. Better access to services alone is not enough; people should also commit to using the services in the long term and making permanent lifestyle changes. After the initial enthusiasm, however, most people tend to lose motivation, forget the use of the services and go back to their old ways. 

The existing digital services do not recognise an individual's risks, personal needs and preferences sufficiently well, and since they are not adaptive, they are unable to support different people in the best possible way.

With the support of international partners, and by utilising statistical methods and artificial intelligence, the project team aims to discover which background factors explain the commitment to lifestyle interventions and what measures can reduce the risk of diabetes. The goal is also to test how the new data-driven methods work as part of the national self-care system. 

The T2D-Data project builds on data collected by the consortium in the StopDia project, which was completed in 2019 and coordinated by the University of Eastern Finland, as well as data collected in the THL-coordinated Diabetes Prevention Study (DPS) on people's lifestyles, related change processes, metabolomics and genome. 

Tens of thousands of Finns took part in the StopDia project online to assess their risk for type 2 diabetes. Almost 3,000 of them participated in a one-year study, in which they were helped to establish small health-enhancing habits in their everyday life through a digital application. Some were also invited to take part in group training. By combining the mobile application with group training, the participants gained better dietary habits and a narrower waistline. During the study, a massive amount of data was collected related to the participants' health, physical and psychological well-being, lifestyle, use of the application and user experiences. These data can be used to develop new methods to identify risks for type 2 diabetes, and to create individual, digital services to support permanent lifestyle changes.

The T2D-Data project will run for three years, and it is co-funded by the Academy of Finland with EUR 875,709 and by the research organisations themselves.

Further information

VTT
Mark van Gils, Research Professor, tel. +358 40 558 3184, mark.vangils(a)vtt.fi

University of Eastern Finland
Jussi Pihlajamäki, Professor in Clinical Nutrition, tel. +358 50 344 0187, jussi.pihlajamaki(a)uef.fi

Finnish institute for health and welfare, THL
Jaana Lindström, Research Manager, tel. +358 29 524 8635,  jaana.lindstrom(a)thl.fi