Type 2 diabetes is a major contributor to disease burden globally. A number of systematic reviews support the efficacy of lifestyle interventions in preventing Type 2 diabetes in adults; however, relatively little attention has been paid to the generalizability of study findings. This study systematically reviews the reporting of external validity components and generalizability of diabetes prevention studies.
Lifestyle intervention studies for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes in adults with at least 6 months' follow-up, published between 1990 and 2011, were identified through searches of major electronic databases. External validity reporting was rated using an assessment tool, and all analysis was undertaken in 2011.
A total of 31 primary studies (n=95 papers) met the selection criteria. All studies lacked full reporting on external validity elements. Description of the study sample, intervention, delivery agents, and participant attrition rates were reported by most studies. However, few studies reported on the representativeness of individuals and settings, methods for recruiting settings and delivery agents, costs, and how interventions could be institutionalized into routine service delivery. It is uncertain to what extent the findings of diabetes prevention studies apply to men, socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals, those living in rural and remote communities, and to low- and middle-income countries.
Reporting of external validity components in diabetes prevention studies needs to be enhanced to improve the evidence base for the translation and dissemination of these programs into policy and practice.