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BMC Health Serv Res. 2008 Feb 7;8:37. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-8-37.

Informing patients of familial diabetes mellitus risk: How do they respond? A cross-sectional survey.

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Division of Primary Care, School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health, University of Nottingham, Derby City General Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby, DE22 3DT, UK.



A strong family history of type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) confers increased DM risk. This survey analysis determined whether patients who were informed by their doctors of familial DM risk acknowledged that risk and took steps to reduce it.


We conducted an analysis of the National Health Styles 2004 mail survey. All non-diabetic participants who responded to the question of whether their doctor had or had not informed them of their familial DM risk (n = 3,323) were compared for their risk-reducing behaviour and attitude to DM risk.


Forty-one percent (n = 616) of the question responders that had DM family histories were informed by their doctors of their familial risk; the chance of being informed increased with the number of relatives that had the disease. Members of the informed group were more likely than those in the non-informed group to report lifestyle changes to prevent DM (odds ratio [OR] 4.3, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.5-5.2) and being tested for DM (OR 2.9, 95% CI 2.4-3.6), although no significant improvement occurred in their U.S.-recommended exercise activity (OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.7-1.1). Overall, informed responders recognised both their familial and personal DM risk; most discussed diabetes with their family (69%), though less so with friends (42%); however, 44% of them still did not consider themselves to be at risk.


Responders who were informed by their doctors of being at familial DM risk reported greater incidences of lifestyle changes, DM screening, and awareness of risk than non-informed responders. Doctors were more likely to inform patients with stronger DM family histories. Identifying this higher risk group, either in isolation or in combination with other recognised risk factors, offers doctors the opportunity to target limited health promotion resources efficiently for primary DM prevention.

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