A research project has found that many children with type 1 diabetes in Denmark do not have the support they need to manage their condition at school, leaving teachers under pressure and parents distracted and worried.
The researchers involved have compiled a series of recommendations to help expand and standardize the support provided, enabling children to focus on being children and providing parents with much-needed peace of mind.
The project, called KIDS, is a joint initiative between five Steno Centers – Aarhus, Copenhagen, North Denmark, Odense and Zealand – and the Danish Diabetes Association.
Half of parents worried
Hundreds of people were consulted, including 252 parents of a child with type 1 diabetes, 921 schools and 121 representatives from 74 municipalities across Denmark.
A key finding was that just 28% of children have a designated support person at school who can help them regulate their blood sugar by, for example, calculating the amount of carbohydrates in the food they eat and the amount of insulin they should take.
Researchers also found that, while 80% of schools have received education in managing diabetes, nearly the same amount (78%) have no guidelines for managing chronic illness among pupils.
A clear theme was parental concern, with 49% of parents worried often or all the time about the risk of their child developing low blood sugar at school. Nearly two-thirds of parents (64%) said they were often or regularly in contact with their child during school about their diabetes.
The project also found large differences in the level of support between schools and municipalities.
Communication and cooperation are key
The recommendations developed by the five Steno Centers and the Danish Diabetes Association provide a framework for action designed to create peace of mind for children with type 1 diabetes, their parents, and staff at schools and daycare institutions. The ultimate goal is for children with this condition to be better supported to regulate their blood sugar during school hours.
The researchers propose the following steps:
- Shortly after the child is diagnosed, the diabetes clinic informs the municipality. This information should go directly to one designated person or unit who knows about diabetes and the process that now begins.
- The diabetes clinic is also responsible for organizing a meeting with the child (depending on age), parents, school/kindergarten staff, healthcare professionals and municipal administrative staff.
- A diabetes contact team should be established at the school or kindergarten. This team is responsible for everyday support with diabetes management. One member of the team should be designated as the primary support person.
- The clinic or hospital is responsible for providing training to the school or kindergarten staff who are in daily contact with the child with diabetes. This should preferably take place on the school/kindergarten premises.
The success of the process relies on strong frameworks for cooperation and clear lines of communication, as well as uniform implementation across regions.
The Steno Centers in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Odense and Zealand, and the Danish Diabetes Association are currently seeking funding to investigate how the proposed solutions can best be implemented across the country.
Judith Vonberg, Communications Specialist, Novo Nordisk Foundation, +45 4172 7925, email@example.com