A view from Vienna, day 2: Education, education, education


Tuesday was the first day of the conference proper, with scientific presentations and announcements beginning in earnest.

In the morning, talks chaired by Professor Simon Heller of the University of Sheffield emphasised the importance of diabetes education – something that JDRF is also committed to highlighting. Just last week we led the latest All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diabetes meeting, focusing MPs’ attention on the results of our recent tweetchat on diabetes education.

With researchers from the US, Germany and Italy announcing how their education programmes have helped lower HbA1c levels, reduce the frequency of hypos, and improve overall control, this should make it harder for the Government to ignore.

One of the more unusual talks came from Professor Daniel Cox, of the University of Virginia, about a novel way to reduce the risk of ‘mishaps’ while driving. He trialled an online tool that assessed whether people were at high risk of accidents (for example, if they were less likely to test their levels before driving, or often had hypos on the road), then guided them through modules to develop safer behaviours (such as instilling a pre-driving routine that included a blood test, and how to prevent hypos while driving). He even developed a ‘pre-drive checklist’ – like a pilot’s pre-flight checklist – to help.

Overall the tool led to a 53% reduction in the number of ‘mishaps’, bringing the high-risk drivers to a level much closer to that of the low-risk drivers. This success suggests that educational programmes like these can sit alongside traditional systems that aim to reduce HbA1c.

Unfortunately, this may become harder to implement as driving regulations change: research from the University of Copenhagen also announced at the conference suggested that when EU regulations changed in 2012, people began under-reporting hypos to avoid losing their licence. By not reporting this information, these people could then be missed out if their healthcare teams come to offer advice around driving.

More worryingly, if there is a wider trend of people under-reporting hypos, people with type 1 could be missing out on crucial help more generally. Education can help people improve their management, but only if healthcare teams know what help to give, and to whom. The results from the Copenhagen team are concerning and we should try to identify if this is a widespread effect, and take steps to prevent it.

Photo: Schönbrunn Castle, Vienna by Flickr user R. Halfpaap, used under a CC-BY-ND 2.0 licence.

This article originally appeared on the JDRF website.

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