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Self Care Week: Providing a Diabetes peer support platform for young people

Posted: 17th November 2020

For Self Care Week (16-22 Nov), we’re highlighting some of the innovations and partners we work with who are empowering patients to take a more active role in managing their own health. In this article, we look at Leeds-based DigiBete and their support tool to help young people affected by Type 1 Diabetes and their families.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken on a huge toll on the health sector this year, and the healthcare industry has had to pivot and adapt to the lockdown restrictions. This is especially important for clinics and support networks, who are no longer able to offer patients and families face to face support.

Born out of founder Maddie Julien’s personal experience of being a mother of a child with Type 1 Diabetes, DigiBete is a digital platform that helps support children, young people and families to self-manage their own diabetes and includes educational resources and peer to peer support. DigiBete was created in partnership with Leeds Children’s Hospital and now receives funding from the NHS Diabetes Programme.

The DigiBete journey accelerated when Maddie enrolled on our Propel@YH programme, Yorkshire and Humber’s first regional digital health accelerator, which supports organisations from across the world to bring their innovative digital health solutions to the region’s patients and the wider health economy. Since completing the programme in 2019, DigiBete has become a vital support for families and patients and has been adopted by 90% of paediatric clinics across England and Wales. The DigiBete platform is also being used in over 150 countries around the world.

In response to the pandemic and many clinics limiting the number of appointments available to patients, DigiBete has developed a digital peer support element on the app, to offer young people the much-needed support they require. New patients can be added to groups or teams, based on commonalities, which then allows them to have a more personalised support network.

The new support functionality has already played a key part in helping young people manage the condition through the pandemic, including Benji, 13. Benji was diagnosed when he was 9 years old. He is now 13 and is keen to inspire other young people living with the challenges of type 1 diabetes. Benji discussed his diagnosis:

“Initially the GP mis-diagnosed me with depression. I’d been going to the doctors a lot because I was wetting the bed so much and I was losing weight. When I was actually diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I was so poorly that the ICU had to come down to me as I was going into organ failure”.

Like many young people living with Type 1 Diabetes, it’s been a really challenging journey for Benji, but he has found strength in his situation. He reflected:

“DigiBete has helped me express my thoughts about being a teenager with Type 1 Diabetes. I also have a really great friend called Byron who features in my awareness video for World Diabetes Day and his Mum has Type 1 too so he knows how to help me”. Benji added that one real advantage of using the DigiBete platform is that he feels he “can open up, talk to anyone in my diabetes clinic and I feel part of the conversation”.

Maddie Julien, founder of DigiBete said:

“No one could have predicted the wider implications that the pandemic could have on healthcare and wellbeing providers, so this year Self Care Week feels more important than ever. We are so pleased to offer this support element to our customers, as we know just how important having someone to talk to and answer any particular daunting questions someone might have about the journey of managing a Diabetes diagnosis”.

Find out more about DigiBete

Find out more about Propel@YH