A fun and app-propriate aid for young diabetics

A fun and app-propriate aid for young diabetics

Dr Katharine Owen hopes the app will have a long-lasting impact on children who use it. Pictures: OX62726 Greg Blatchford

Nine-year-old Charlie Evans, pictured above playing the game. Pictures: OX62726 Greg Blatchford

The device that monitors Charlie Evans' blood sugar levels. Pictures: OX62726 Greg Blatchford

Georgia Selley, 12, also uses the app to keep track of her blood sugar levels. Pictures: OX62726 Greg Blatchford

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter, also covering West Oxford. Call me on (01865) 425437

CHILDREN now have more of a grasp on, and more access to, technology than most of us had as youngsters.

And that cultural shift has been adopted by researchers who want to help youngsters with Type 1 diabetes to learn to manage their sugar levels.

A new phone app called Monster Manor aims to do this by giving children rewards when they remember to input their blood sugar levels.

Charlie Evans was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes – which needs to be treated with insulin – when he was only two years old.

He was one of the first children in the country to be able to use the app and he is already starting to see the benefits.

Now nine years old, he is taking more responsibility over his diabetes management.

His mum, Angela Spilby, said the youngster, of The Fairway in Banbury, had taken well to the app.

She said: “He has only really been using it a week, but it makes sure that he takes his readings throughout the day, and when he is at school, where I can’t nag him.

“He is already starting to see how useful it is.

“He is such an active boy and there is one part where you can see the levels in a type of graph which lets him see if there are any patterns to his glucose levels, such as if he drops to a low level when he plays sport.”

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Charlie said: “I really like the game, it is fun and it makes me remember to take the readings.”

Type 1 diabetes is often referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes and is more often discovered when a person is younger.

Insulin regulates blood glucose levels and if those are too high, the body’s organs can be seriously damaged.

Doctors in Oxford think the new app will help younger patients, between the ages of six and 13, to operate better with their condition and recognise any patterns that arise.

More than 100 children signed up to the app, which was launched at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Churchill Hospital on October 15.

This is about a third of the more than 300 children treated at the hospital for the condition.

Dr Katharine Owen, the Oxford Academic Health Science Network Diabetes Network clinical lead and honorary consultant at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, is a member of the team spearheading the app.

She said: “We want to try to improve the care of people around what treatment they are given and how they can manage their diabetes better by taking a more technological approach.

“We heard about this app and wanted to get involved.”

The new app is part of a new Diabetes Clinical Network in Oxford that will see its effectiveness evaluated in a comprehensive manner.

Dr Owen said: “If children become more aware and more responsible for their diabetes, then they are less likely to develop problems.

“This is a really fun way of doing this and technology can really help to engage with children. This is hopefully going to have a lasting impact on the children using it.”

She said all children who are using it will be asked for feedback to help improve and develop the app, as well as to see how it has affected them.

Dr Paul Durrands, chief operating officer of the Oxford Academic Health Science Network, said: “The diabetes network is off to a great start and is the first of eight clinical networks we are funding.

“This initiative is a great example of how NHS clinicians and leading researchers can work with industry to improve patients’ health and well-being.”

s Sanofi Diabetes has worked with Ayogo and Diabetes UK to create the Monster Manor app. It is free on the iPod, iPhone, iPad and on Android devices. It is available to download from the Apple App Store or at Google Play.

DIABETES IN OXFORDSHIRE

  • There are 320 children and young people under the age of 19 who have diabetes and are under the care of the paediatric team at the Oxford Children’s Hospital.
  •  There are also about 250 young adults (aged 18-25).
  •  About two-thirds of them are under the care of the Young Adult Clinic at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Churchill. Others will be under GP care.
  • It is estimated that there are 33,700 people in the county with diabetes – 6.5 per cent of the  population.
  •  Of these, about 10 per cent would be expected to have Type 1 diabetes – with the others Type 2.

WHAT IS DIABETES?

  • In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas (a small gland behind the stomach) does not produce any insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. If the amount of glucose in the blood is too high, it can seriously damage the body’s organs.
  • In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to it. This is known as insulin resistance.
  • The number of cases of Type 2 diabetes has risen because of our ageing population and rapidly rising numbers of overweight and obese people.
  • Symptoms include, but are not limited to, feeling very thirsty, urinating frequently, particularly at night, feeling very tired, weight loss and loss of muscle bulk (in type 1 diabetes).

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