KEY FUNDING TO ANSWER TROUBLING DIABETES QUESTIONS 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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