A team of Vanderbilt researchers recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health to launch a website for teenagers with diabetes. The website YourWay was created to assist those teens with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in improving the way they care for themselves.
Teens with type 1 diabetes have to take insulin, while those with type 2 may not, but in general, the barriers that impede them from taking better care of themselves tend to be remarkably similar. Because many teens report that it’s hard to find resources to help them overcome the psychosocial barriers that are the most common barriers to good self-care, Shelagh Mulvaney, Ken Wallston, Russell Rothman and Cindy Lybarger decided to create a website to help them do just that.
“We teach adolescents how to set goals and solve problems surrounding the psychosocial barriers to self-care,” explained Mulvaney, who is an assistant professor for nursing, pediatrics and informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Through specific models on the website, teens can learn how to identify and resolve those barriers, like feelings of stigma or embarrassment, inadequate communication with adults and peers, lack of planning, distraction and time constraints. Other barriers they might be struggling with include depression, burn-out and inadequate situational decision-making. And simple forgetfulness can be a major barrier for some adolescents.
The models depict first-person accounts of situations that teenagers and their parents may encounter. For example, one model tells the story of Jake, a soccer player who worries that his brother, a teammate, is embarrassed by him. Jake does not want to test his blood glucose in front of his teammates prior to a soccer game and then experiences a severe hypoglycemic episode during the game. The rest of the model shows Jake learning how to resolve this problem, including a part where he talks to his brother about the situation and another part where he learns more about insulin dosing and sports from his nurse practitioner.
Currently, the YourWay
website is only open to teens who are enrolled in relevant research studies. There are two versions available: one for type 1 patients, and one for type 2, but Mulvaney notes that they are very similar.
“We hope to open the program up to adolescents and their families in the near future,” she added.