The Development and Evaluation of a Peer Support System for Children and Young People with Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in the world today and numbers of affected individuals in the UK are predicted to rise, raising concerns not only for the health of the nation but also the capability of a healthcare system which is already at breaking point. Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in an inability to produce insulin. It can develop at any age but is usually diagnosed before the age of 40, and it is the most common type of diabetes in children and young people. In order to prevent the occurrence of potentially serious related health complications, such as retinopathy, neuropathy, and stroke, rigorous and continual self-management must be followed from diagnosis through the completion of behaviours including blood glucose monitoring, insulin adjustment, and carbohydrate counting.
Adolescence is a developmental period which is marked with a number of transitions, including changes in the school and social environment, struggles for autonomy and self-reliance, and hormonal changes related to pubertal growth. Treatment adherence and glycaemic control is frequently reported as being poor within this cohort, which raises the question ‘how do we encourage children and young people to take an active role in the management of their disease?’
Various health care technologies have been developed in recent years with a diabetic user-group in mind, although few have been designed and tested exclusively for and with this cohort. According to Lave and Wenger’s (1991) communities of practice theory, an imperative element of learning is the process of social participation and the evolution of a sense of community and support amongst participating individuals. This intervention aims to instigate the development of such a community amongst adolescents and young people with type 1 diabetes using a mobile phone-based system. A participatory design approach will be adopted for the development of the system which will see users included as co-designers and consulted at each stage of the design process, so as to instil within them a sense of empowerment and to promote the development of an efficient and usable system.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.