DigiBete launches school packs & eLearning to raise childhood diabetes awareness

DigiBete at HSJ Awards 2023

DigiBete, the Health Service Journal’s 2023 award winner for Digitising Patient Care, is partnering with Leeds Children’s Hospital to celebrate the launch of their new Blue Balloon Challenge School Awareness packs and announce the building of a brand new eLearning platform for schools and the community.

This new school initiative, supported by type 1 diabetes advocate Natalie Balmain, aims to address the additional psychological support needed by 39% of children with type 1 diabetes highlighted in the latest National CYP Diabetes Audit¹, helping to address the additional psychological support that many children require over and above what they can be expected to receive during attendance at routine clinic appointments with members of their multidisciplinary diabetes team.

The new school packs include various learning resources for primary and secondary school pupils, including a lesson plan and school assembly presentation. DigiBete is also developing a new eLearning platform to enhance the understanding of what it’s like to live with diabetes for teaching staff in collaboration with the National Children and Young People’s Diabetes Network, JDRF UK and Diabetes UK.

DigiBete, with support from Natalie, is visiting Gledhow Primary School in Leeds to meet eight-year-old Hugo, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at nine months old. They’ll raise awareness about the condition’s impact on childhood mental health, presenting the #BlueBalloonChallenge to help the school understand the daily challenges faced by young people and families managing type 1 diabetes.

Natalie, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 17 years and is passionate about inspiring and educating pupils about the condition, says: “Whilst it doesn’t define me, it does affect everything in my life. You can’t do anything without thinking about your diabetes first. I wish the world knew that type 1 diabetes does not mean you are unhealthy and it’s not caused by eating too many sweets. It’s an autoimmune condition and is incredibly challenging for young people in schools who face so many questions about their diabetes daily, and it’s exhausting.”

As reported in the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit (NPDA)2, diagnosis of all types of diabetes is rising, with a 6% increase in type 1 diagnoses, which makes the work that DigiBete do vital to supporting the increasing numbers of families facing the challenges of managing the condition.

Maddie Julian, Founder of DigiBete, says: “As we celebrate the launch of the Blue Balloon Challenge School Packs and eLearning platform, DigiBete remains committed to raising awareness about the impact of type 1 diabetes on childhood physical and mental health.

“Looking towards 2024, DigiBete has a clear focus on enhancing care in schools. We’re excited to share that we are actively developing a new eLearning platform to support better understanding among school staff, reinforcing our mission to empower and educate communities on managing type 1 diabetes.”

Throughout November, €5 has been donated by Medtronic, a global diabetes technology company, to the global charity Life for a Child for every post on Instagram taking part in the challenge and using the hashtag #BlueBalloonChallenge. The challenge aims to highlight that living with diabetes is like doing everything you do in your daily life while keeping a balloon in the air.

For further information about the challenge and the resource packs, visit: https://www.digibete.org/blue-balloon-challenge/

Despite reductions in the percentages recorded as requiring additional support between 2020/21 and 2021/22, over a third of children and young people were assessed as requiring additional psychological support outside of multidisciplinary team meetings (39.0% of those with Type 1 diabetes and 48.3% of those with Type 2 diabetes). https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/npda-annual-reports

The increase in incidence of Type 1 diabetes observed in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued through the 2021/22 audit year. There were 3,883 new diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes in 2021/22 managed within a PDU, compared to 3,662 in 2020/21. This is 1,010 more than the average number newly diagnosed and being managed in a PDU between 2013/14-2019/20, before the start of the pandemic. https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/npda-annual-reports

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