Teens' diabetes management supported by family problem-solving

September 10, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—A clinic-based program for adolescents with type 1 diabetes and their families helped the teens develop the healthy behaviors needed to control their blood sugar levels, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found.

The researchers found that 12- to 15-year-olds benefited from a two-year program of three to four meetings each year with parents and a health advisor to discuss shared responsibilities, goals and strategies for solving diabetes management problems that arose.

"Adolescence can be difficult for families—even without the complex challenge of taking care of diabetes," said first author Tonja R. Nansel, Ph.D., of the Prevention Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the institute that conducted the study. "Our study found that meeting with a health advisor during regular diabetes clinic visits could help families put together strategies for dealing with diabetes, to better manage the changes that occur as children take on more responsibility for their day-to-day ."

Dr. Nansel collaborated on the study with NICHD colleagues Ronald J. Iannotti, Ph.D., and Aiyi Liu, Ph.D.

Their findings were published online in Pediatrics.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system destroys the insulin-producing of the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that enables cells to use the for energy. Type 1 diabetes usually strikes children and young adults, who need several a day or an to survive. People with this type of diabetes must balance the amount of food they consume with their insulin dose, to prevent their levels from climbing too high or dropping too low. Over time, high can have a number of serious health effects, including blindness, and heart disease. An extreme drop in blood sugar can be fatal.

Many adolescents have difficulty managing their diabetes. Hormonal changes may affect insulin levels. Moreover, adolescents may find it difficult to adhere to their daily treatment plan.

When caring for their diabetes, adults often follow the patterns they established in adolescence, Dr. Nansel explained. If they fail to learn how to care for the disease properly during this time, they may develop poor habits that increase the chances for health problems later on.

In the study, the researchers evaluated WE-CAN Manage Diabetes, a two-year behavioral intervention program they developed. The study included about 300 preteens and young adolescents with (ages 9 to 15) and their families. Half the families received the WE-CAN intervention and half received standard care.

Standard care consisted of regular visits with their diabetes care physician. In addition to the physician visits, the WE-CAN program included meetings in which the health advisor discussed with the family any difficulties they were having with the child's or areas they would like to improve. The health advisor then helped the families work out a plan for solving the problems. For example, in their sessions with the health advisor, young people with diabetes and their families frequently set goals such as checking blood sugar more often or eating more healthfully.

At each visit, researchers also recorded hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) measurements, a standard indicator of a person's long-term blood sugar control. (Information on the A1C test is available from the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.)

At the study's conclusion, the 12- to 15-year-olds in the intervention group had markedly better HbA1c levels than those who received standard care. The intervention did not appear to improve blood sugar control among 9- to 11-year-olds.

"The approach appears to be better suited for the behavioral issues that the older kids were facing," said Dr. Nansel. "The findings show us that the children who needed it most are the ones for whom this approach worked."

The National Diabetes Education Program—a joint program of NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—has resources to help children with and their families and schools take steps to better the children's health. Find resources for youth at http://ndep.nih.gov/teens/index.aspx and a guide for school personnel at http://ndep.nih.gov/media/youth_schoolguide.pdf.

Explore further: Many people with type 1 diabetes missing treatment goals: study

Related Stories

Many people with type 1 diabetes missing treatment goals: study

June 10, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Many Americans with type 1 diabetes fail to meet their treatment targets, according to researchers who analyzed data from a newly created registry that includes more than 25,000 patients at 67 clinics nationwide.

Study finds that mobile phone technology helps patients manage diabetes

August 1, 2011
An interactive computer software program appears to be effective in helping patients manage their Type 2 diabetes using their mobile phones, according to a new study by University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers. ...

Make a plan to prevent diabetes, complications

November 3, 2011
In observance of National Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14, the National Institutes of Health urges people to set goals and make plans to prevent diabetes and diabetes-related complications.

Recommended for you

Is rushing your child to the ER the right response?

October 16, 2017
If a child gets a small burn from a hot pan, starts choking or swallows medication, parents may struggle to decide whether to provide first aid at home or rush them to the hospital, suggests a new national poll.

Happier mealtimes, healthier eating for kids

October 13, 2017
(HealthDay)—Parents who struggle to get their children to follow a healthy diet may want to make dinnertime a pleasant experience, new research suggests.

Children born prematurely have greater risk of cognitive difficulties later in life

October 11, 2017
Babies born preterm have a greater risk of developing cognitive, motor and behavioural difficulties and these problems persist throughout school years, finds a new study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Helping preemies avoid unnecessary antibiotics

October 5, 2017
(HealthDay)—Researchers say they have identified three criteria that suggest an extremely premature infant has a low risk of developing sepsis, which might allow doctors to spare these babies early exposure to antibiotics.

Got a picky eater? How 'nature and nurture' may be influencing eating behavior in young children

October 3, 2017
For most preschool-age children, picky eating is just a normal part of growing up. But for others, behaviors such as insisting on only eating their favorite food item—think chicken nuggets at every meal—or refusing to ...

Anxious moms may give clues about how anxiety develops

September 27, 2017
Moms may be notorious worriers, but babies of anxious mothers may also spend more time focusing on threats in their environment, according to a team of researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.