UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune condition that makes the body unable to produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1.25 million Americans are living with the condition, including about 200,000 youth.
In collaboration with Allentown-based Cedar Crest College School of Nursing, Penn State Extension’s Better Kid Care program has developed one online module on Type 1 diabetes designed to support early childhood educators and caregivers in their understanding and awareness of the disease.
Educators currently are working on a second module that will support elementary, middle, and high school educators and caregivers to implement strategies that will encourage youth with Type 1 diabetes to take more responsibility for their diabetes management.
Both modules emerged out of two $100,000 grants awarded to the Cedar Crest College School of Nursing in 2020 and 2021awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health with support from state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. An interdisciplinary team assembled by Wendy Robb, dean of the Cedar Crest College School of Nursing, includes Debby Healy, diabetes advocate, Better Kid Care, and experts in social media, medical care and education.
The first module, “Diabetes Awareness and Management for Young Children,” focuses on informing early childhood educators and caregivers about the signs and symptoms and the essentials of caring for a young child with Type 1 diabetes.
“If a child with Type 1 diabetes has not yet been diagnosed, they often present their diabetes in the state of diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that occurs as a result of high glucose in the bloodstream,” said Jill Cox, a program development specialist in nutrition, health and wellness for Penn State Extension.
“Therefore, it’s highly important that anyone caring for children be able to recognize those signs and symptoms and also know the basics of diabetes management for young children who rely on the adults caring for them to manage their diabetes.”
Since it was launched, more than 3,500 individuals have completed the module, equating to more than 7,000 hours of professional development training. The nonprofit organization Beyond Type 1 has made available a Spanish translation of the module.
The second module will focus on supporting educators, guidance counselors, school nurses and others who care for youth with Type 1 diabetes during school and in out-of-school settings and who support these students as they transition from depending on others to meeting their own medical needs. It will cover topics ranging from the importance of a social ally to strategies that educators can use to support youth with Type 1 diabetes.
“A core piece of supporting families and youth with diabetes is to help teachers, school nurses, guidance counselors and youth themselves in the transition to independent care in managing diabetes,” Cox said. “We’re focusing on some key strategies that will inform the educators how they can best support the youth and their families, and we hope to reach a wide range of educators.”
Better Kid Care plans to release the second module in fall 2021. Both modules are available to anyone who sets up a free account in the Better Kid Care On Demand Distance Education system. Pennsylvania residents will be able to obtain a certificate of completion free of charge. Both modules are available for professional development credits through state licensing for mandated clock-hour trainings. In Pennsylvania, Act 48 credit hours are available upon request.
More information can be found at extension.psu.edu/programs/
–Amy Duke, Penn State University