Carbs & Cals specialises in books and apps for diabetes, weight loss, portion control and healthy eating. The method of using thousands of food photos to count carbs and calories is both revolutionary and simple. It has been nationally recognised as the leading carb counting resource for type 1 diabetes for 10 years. Since winning the QiC Award in 2014, Carbs & Cals has published 12 additional books, including resources for type 2, weight loss, gestational and BAME communities. The self-funding project works with partners and research projects to ensure more people can self-manage diabetes and other conditions.
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Carbs & Cals is a collection of extremely low cost, effective resources, covering a range of conditions (type 1, type 2, GD, weight loss, healthy eating). They are designed to be visual, easy to understand and accessible to a wide range of backgrounds and ages, providing information on nutrition, portion control, self-management and empowerment. They are trusted resources, developed by Registered Dietitians and used by both patients and HCPs.
Over 10 years, researching and producing books has been refined to a process that ensures that each resource fills a gap in health education and self-management. Project co-founder Chris Cheyette (Diabetes Specialist Dietitian) works in the NHS (King’s College Hospital), delivers DAFNE, is a BDA member and regularly speaks at conferences. His interaction with patients and HCPs allows Carbs & Cals to understand the latest evidence and fill gaps in educational resources quickly. The likely demand from organisations, such as BDA, Diabetes UK (DUK) and pharma, is identified before resources are created. Users and HCPs are involved in the planning process, with resources researched by credible experts. The resources are produced efficiently, making use of budget and minimising time to launch. As a small, self-funded operation, project costs are kept low and there are no delays sourcing, or waiting for, funding. Regular freelancers produce the books quickly. All the books are thoroughly checked and tested before printing. Resources are assessed by HCPs and test books are printed and used in clinics. All information meets nationally recognised guidelines, and nutritional information is accurate.
Originally aimed at type 1 diabetes, resources have been extended to type 2, gestational (GD), weight loss, healthy eating and, most recently, type 2 in BAME communities. Books have been developed for other countries, including Portugal (in association with APDP), Germany and the Netherlands. The app now has food databases for the UK, USA, Germany, Austria, Italy and Portugal. Dissemination is ensured through a range of channels, including: working with structured education programmes (e.g. producing 18,000 CARB PORTION LIST booklets for DAFNE); NHS collaborations; partnerships with companies such as Roche, which distributed thousands of free books each year with meters; encouraging HCPs across the country to use books in clinic (e.g. the CARB & CALORIE COUNTER was distributed to every diabetes centre in the UK); DUK supports and sells the Carbs & Cals books; attendance at diabetes conferences; articles and reviews in healthcare magazines and mainstream media; giving talks nationally; providing free content (50 PDFs on the website), as well as an active social media presence for the public and HCPs. The number of books printed rises each year. In 2018, three times as many books were printed compared to 2010 (when the first book was launched), and 50% more than in 2014. The number of Amazon reviews has increased 12-fold since 2014 (from 500 to over 6,000). Free flyers are requested every week across the UK, which demonstrates that the books are being recommended by HCPs in every location. The reach of social media has increased gradually, with the popular Easter Egg post on Facebook reaching 53,000 people organically, with 6,500 engagements and 270 shares. The resources have a loyal fanbase of 18,000 people on the email mailing list, with excellent engagement rates.
Sustainability and Spread
Carbs & Cals has gone from strength to strength for 10 years, developing 15 books plus other resources. It is continually improving products, making them as effective as possible. Resources are supported by established knowledge, experience, processes and a team of regular freelancers, enabling development far more quickly than most NHS projects (e.g. SMOOTHIES book took two months to complete, from initial planning to printing). The project founders and managers, Chris Cheyette and Yello Balolia, are committed to the project for the foreseeable future. There is still much scope to use existing content and expand resources to help more people with diabetes in the UK and beyond. The project is financially self-sustaining and generates enough funds to make further resources. The books can be used in clinic, on structured education courses, and by those with diabetes at home. The resources are designed to be simple, accessible and used flexibly in a variety of healthcare settings. Keeping the app updated has been a challenge as the app development company went into liquidation. However, photos have been added to the app. Dissemination is supported by marketing via newsletters, social media, conferences and awards. Resources rank highly on Amazon (e.g. people searching for 'smoothie book' will see the SMOOTHIES book at top of search results). There is a programme to repackage content into other resources and support external research. The database is provided to other organisations for research and commercial purposes. Images are shared with HCPs to update patient handouts and presentations. Carbs & Cals information is used on the Know Diabetes website and data have been used to make the DAFNE CARB PORTION LIST. In addition, books have the capacity to be cut down (e.g. WORLD FOODS South Asian version in Urdu). Content has been licensed to publishing companies overseas, resulting in the CARB & CALORIE COUNTER being licensed and translated into Dutch, as well as a German version being produced, with the rights sold to a publishing company in Germany. Furthermore, VERY LOW CALORIE has been translated into German for research trials.
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