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International Education

Feb 11, 2015

How much do we talk about international diabetes education? As a travel lover and person with type 1, I'm always interested in (and often surprised by) finding new opportunities for connection and discovery provided by this unusual aspect of my life.

Finland has the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world, with a yearly rate of 57.4 cases per every 100,000 children aged 0-14 (by contrast, the United States experiences a rate of 16 cases/100,000 children 0-14 years old). While every country has its own ways of connecting with the adolescent type 1 population, there are also similarities to the strategies employed to coach those challenged with managing what can be an incredibly frustrating chronic disease.

Such was the topic of discussion when I recently talked with Ms. Sari Koski via email. Sari is the Project Manager for One Life: Diabetes, developed by the Diabetes Centre in Tampere, Finland. One Life: Diabetes offers a unique resource for teenagers with type 1 diabetes: a group called Club One. Here's some interesting information about Club One that sheds some light on how diabetes professionals in Finland offer support to adolescents with type 1:

Community is important. Sara says, "Teenagers don’t often know many other people with type 1 so they might feel different to others. That’s why they might not want to treat themselves properly. In Club One they meet others with type 1 and also a young adult who knows what it is to be a teenager with type 1 diabetes."

A peer atmosphere and a mentor to look up to for advice? Sign my teen self up! From my experience, I can see how this structure helps eliminate feelings of being ostracized and cultivates a sense of belonging in an accepting environment, ideally leading to better self-care among the teens with type 1.

Life isn't all about diabetes. Sari says the project stands out among other resources due to Club One's multifaceted approach to its programming.

"We have combined peer support, information (education) and having fun in the same package. There are resources from health care available as well. Groups have the activity (sic) that teenagers like to do."

I know that I could have used all of these elements when dealing with diabetes as a teenager!

I know from working with AADE on various projects that diabetes professionals around the world can share insight and offer ideas to one another. Learning about diabetes is a constant process for everyone involved.

Sari recommends incorporating activity when counseling teenagers about taking care of themselves and being responsible for their health.

"It is a good idea to listen to the teenagers themselves and to seek possibilities that teenagers have something to do together (sic). Education can be fun and it can be performed by doing things instead of talking and listening."

Most importantly, Club One is a place where teens feel that they belong. "Every teenager deserves to feel “normal” in some group in his / her life. In this group it is normal to measure blood sugar and to get insulin. In some other groups it might not be." It's such a powerful message, and one that's important to remember for diabetes educators around the world.

4 comments

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  1. Feb 24, 2015

    We founded DAY( Diabetes And You ) society in the year 1999. We have now about 60 kids with type 1 Diabetes who are from poor socioeconomic back ground. They meet once in a month on first Sunday of the month and interact with each other. They also have some training sessions apart from receiving their supplies of insulin and other disposables. The meeting of their peers really help them and they bond with each other very well. Some of them started their journey together almost 15 years back. They share their joy and sorrows and discuss about their daily challenges. As mentioned in the article they help each other in many ways.
  2. Feb 22, 2015

    On my previous post, someone wanted to know what happened to the University Nurse position. I did a very good job (even going the extra mile and rendered dependable service when the Director was out to a seminar, local or national meeting), but due to an overview of expenses and budgeting, I was proven to be too expensive @ $56.00 an hour. The Agency was not offered a lower rate. Would they have accepted?
  3. Feb 22, 2015

    I was privileged to care for diabetes teenagers as a University Nurse at a College and one on insulin therapy at an Elementary school. The event that was a learning process for me was a nine year old boy at another Elementary School who knew so much about his diagnosis, that I commend his doctor (means 'teacher in Latin) for being such a good Teacher. Himself and parents helped to "walk" me through the care for administering care via Insulin Pump. He taught me and his parents taught me! have you ever had a job where you mostly had only head knowledge? I got hands-on traing from these individuals and I am not ashamed, because it gave me CONFIDENCE to move on to others!
  4. Feb 12, 2015

    Sounds like Finland has found a way to work with Type 1's and that sounds very good. Yes, I agree that we as educators need to be more of listeners and not become 'teachers' busy correcting and trying to rectify. I know type 1 children have summer camps. I agree we need to focus more on developing support groups for teens to be just themselves 'Teenagers'!!! Enjoy reading your Blogs !!

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