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

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

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.