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Diabet Med. 2020 Feb 8. doi: 10.1111/dme.14268. [Epub ahead of print]

What are the characteristics of the best type 1 diabetes patient education programmes (from diagnosis to long-term care), do they improve outcomes and what is required to make them more effective?

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Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield.
Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK.


The last 20 years have witnessed a marked change in approaches to the management of type 1 diabetes in the UK. This is exemplified by National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance which acknowledges that reaching and maintaining target glucose depends on people with type 1 diabetes effectively implementing flexible intensive insulin therapy. The guidance emphasizes that successful self-management requires the acquisition of complex skills and is best achieved by participation in high-quality structured education. Controlled trials and other research have shown that programmes teaching self-management can lower glucose levels while reducing hypoglycaemia, can improve psychological outcomes and are highly cost-effective. An important principle of successful programmes is therapeutic education in which learning becomes a partnership between the professional and the person with diabetes who learns to fit diabetes into his/her everyday life. Other recommended elements of programmes include a written curriculum, group teaching by a professional multidisciplinary team and quality assurance. Yet many participants struggle post-course to implement and maintain skills, and overall HbA1c levels, particularly in the UK, remain far from target. Recent studies have identified the barriers to sustained effective self-management and concluded that even high-quality programmes generally lack critical components. These include incorporating evidence from behaviour change research, exploiting the promise of new technologies in reducing the burden of self-management, and providing structured professional support once people have completed the training. Studies are currently underway to evaluate the structured training courses which have added these elements and examine whether they can lower glucose to levels closer to target without impairing quality of life.


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