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Alleviating the emotional anguish of type 1 diabetes was the focus of two fresh research projects awarded funding
on World Diabetes Day 2008 – shining a spotlight on the often forgotten link between type 1 diabetes and mental
health and wellbeing.

As part of a luncheon to celebrate 30 years of active research funding and World Diabetes Day 2008, the Diabetes
Research Foundation (DRF) announced funding for two significant projects to improve the lives of people with type
1 diabetes.

DRF Chairman Dr Erica Smyth said the researchers were awarded a combined total of $150,000 to investigate the
psychosocial impact of diabetes.

“We have granted Associate Professor Tim Skinner from the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health
funding for a project addressing a critical need in WA – developing an internet-based program to help alleviate
anxiety and health risks for people living with type 1 diabetes,” she said.

“Dr Pat Rapley from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH) has also been awarded a grant for a pilot program that
will trial the placement of a dedicated health expert to help adolescents through a difficult phase of transitioning
from child to adult care.”

A/Professor Skinner said his project would aim to provide accessible, reliable information and support for people
who live with type 1 diabetes outside the metropolitan area.

“People with type 1 diabetes face two common problems – anxiety about hypoglycaemia and the social
ramifications, as well as hypoglycaemic unawareness, which can both lead to serious health problems – and the
best way to overcome these is with education,” he said.

“It’s crucial everyone with type 1 diabetes is given accurate information and advice to help them through the
difficulties, which isn’t always easily accessible for people living outside city areas, so we’re looking at adapting a
website to offer a 12 week program of support and advice for people with the condition.”

A/Professor Skinner will work alongside Diabetes WA to adapt a program –blood glucose awareness training
developed in the United States – for Western Australia and hopes to begin a trial of the program in 2009.

Curtin University Senior Lecturer Dr Rapley said the program she would trial hoped to offer adolescents and their
families crucial support needed to help smooth common problems in the transition from child to adult patient care.

“Moving from an environment in child-focused care where it’s like a second family for them – the patient’s family is
involved, there’s consistency in the staff, shared responsibility, familiarity and support – to an adult-based care
system is a big leap that often results in missed appointments and family anxiety,” she said.

Based on a system already in place in New South Wales, this pilot will set out to ascertain whether the creation of a
‘transition coordinator’ role could help young adults manage the complexities and new responsibilities of self-
managing the condition.

“We hope the addition of a transition coordinator to the existing transition clinic at SCGH will make that process
easier and help young people stay on top of self-managing the condition with confidence, as well as reassuring
their families.”

JDRF Youth Ambassador for the day, Jaide Dennis, said “programs designed to help during transition would really
make a difference”.

The pilot, a collaboration between SCGH and Princess Margaret Hospital will assign a transition coordinator to a
number of adolescents moving through this change, and monitor their progress as well as family sentiment before
and after the trial.

Dr Smyth said the focus for World Diabetes Day 2008 was diabetes in children and adolescents, which was a
strong theme among the grant recipients.

“Living with diabetes is complex and life-changing for both young and old – on top of all the usual issues like
relationships, family conflict and grief, financial worries that we all experience, people with diabetes are also
confronted with some very specific issues, so it’s important we do all we can to understand this,” Dr Smyth said.

World Diabetes Day is led by the International Diabetes Federation and is the primary global awareness campaign
for diabetes celebrated each year on November 14.

In 2007, World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations world day, following the passage of the United
Nations World Diabetes Day Resolution in December 2006.

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