Young adults with type 1 diabetes are playing a leading role in redesigning the delivery of health services.
A research team at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine found young people better manage their condition if they have a good relationship with at least one person in the health service.
Young people with type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin and are a particularly high-risk group when they leave home to work or go to college.
Molly Byrne, a member of the D1 Now research team at NUI Galway, said young adults often disengage from health services and their general diabetes management.
“Young adults with type 1 diabetes don’t want to think about their condition; they just want to be like everyone else.
They can end up on a night out drinking with their peers and that is a very high-risk scenario for them,” the professor said.
“We created a young adult panel that has driven the research because we want to develop an intervention within the health services that works for young adults.
“Crucially, we found that if a young person has at least one person within the health service with whom they can have a good relationship, it works wonders on their self-management.”
The D1 Now research project, funded by the Health Research Board, is led by Seán Dineen, who saw the value of creating flexible young adult-centred clinics.
Many young people with type 1 diabetes find it hard to control their blood glucose levels. With lots going in their lives, their diabetes is often not their priority,” said Prof Dineen.
The D1 Now team have developed an intervention using interactive online tools to improve engagement between young adults with type 1 diabetes and healthcare providers.
Ms Byrne said the next step will be to see how the intervention works within the health service.
“If young adults are motivated through engagement with the services they are then able to rise to the challenge of self-managing their condition.”
Ms Byrne will discuss the research next week when NUI Galway’s School of Psychology hosts the 32nd Annual Conference of the European Health Psychology Society. “We want to emphasise that continuity of care is crucial for young adults.”
She will also discuss how involving those who live with chronic health problems and those who directly provide care for them is often essential for producing research that reduces suffering.
“If you have patient and public involvement in the research from the outset your interventions are more likely to be effective.”