Survey on childhood diabetes

A Massey University research student has appealed to families with a Type 1 Diabetes affected family to contact her for possible inclusion of their experiences in her study.

Fathimath Rifshana, who is currently pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology, said that she was keen to find out how families with children afflicted by the ailment cope with day-to-day issues.

She is in search of 15 families with children aged between 4 and 12 years of age diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes for a minimum of six months.

“It is a daily challenges for children with diabetes to keep their blood glucose at the acceptable level. My focus is on families and their experience of having a child with Type 1 Diabetes,” she said.

Home interviews

Ms Rifshana is seeking volunteers from Manawatu, Wanganui, Horowhenua and Southern Hawke’s Bay. Selected families will receive petrol or grocery vouchers valued at $30.

She said interviews with caregivers may take up to two hours in their homes, with questions based on their experiences having a child with Type 1 Diabetes, and what has helped them to manage the concerned issues.

“The experiences they share will contribute to a better understanding of how families cope when facing difficult life challenges, such as having a child diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and provide other families with strategies to try.”

Ms Rifshana said that Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is the most common chronic metabolic condition seen in children and adolescents.

Long term effects

In New Zealand, the estimated average annual incidence of this condition in children aged 0-14 years is 17.9 out of 100,000, with its incidence having doubled in the last 20-30 years, she said.

“This condition, also known as ‘insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus,’ is characterised by an autoimmune-mediated destruction of pancreatic β-cells, causing absolute insulin deficiency, meaning that those with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce their own insulin,” she said.

According to Ms Rifshana, treatment usually involves a regimen of insulin therapy (taking insulin extraneously, either by injecting insulin or via an insulin pump), management of diet and activity levels, and glucose monitoring.

These are required to maintain a healthy range of blood sugar levels.

“Long term complications that can arise include eye problems and blindness, nerve damage, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, kidney disease and amputations. Affected children face the daily challenge of maintaining their blood sugar levels at a healthy range, in order to prevent these later complications,” she said.

She was earlier involved with research, evaluating the Concussion Clinic at the Massey University Psychology Clinic, and a Marsden-funded research looking at the classroom emotional climate.

A postgraduate in Psychology from Massey University (and a graduate in Psychology from the Australian National University in Canberra), her interest in chronic childhood conditions grew from my work as a teacher aide at a local school a few years ago.

Further details can be obtained from Fathimath Rifshana (06) 3569099 (Extension 2516). Email:

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