NICE guidance published this week recommends that a lower BMI of 23 – instead of the usual 25 – should be the trigger point for action in helping people of African, Caribbean and Asian descent to avoid developing long-term conditions.
People from minority ethnicities are six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke than the wider UK population. They are also more likely to develop these conditions at a younger age.
The guidance aims to help public health teams at local authorities reduce high levels of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in minority ethnic groups.
Early intervention using the lower BMI threshold could save the NHS £8.8bn each year in the UK by reducing costs associated with the diagnosis, management and complications of type 2 diabetes, NICE calculated.
Additional savings of £13bn are possible if mortality, sickness and loss of productivity from those in work are included, it said.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: ‘Lifestyle interventions targeting inactive lifestyles and diet have reduced the incidence of diabetes by about 50% among high-risk individuals, including people of South Asian, Chinese, African and Caribbean descent.
‘As well as improving the health and wellbeing of individuals, taking effective action now also reduces future demand on health and social care services by enabling people to remain as independent as possible.’
A NICE spokeswoman said: ‘This will support partnerships between GPs and local authorities in ensuring that the services they provide take this increased risk into account, to help prevent life-threatening chronic diseases in people in their communities who are from minority ethnic backgrounds.’