Millions of children worldwide face the daily challenge of living with diabetes, and that includes going to school. Misconceptions exist throughout school communities globally, with many children facing discrimination for having diabetes and having to face remarks like these from other school children such as “diabetes is contagious” and “we shouldn’t play with someone with diabetes".
“I have a sister who has diabetes. She hasn’t gone to school for two months because she is scared,” said Laxmi, a student from India.
To dispel these groundless fears and create an informed, supportive school community, Sanofi and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), launched the Kids and Diabetes in School (KiDS) program to develop better understanding of type 1 and type 2 diabetes among children, teachers, school nurses and parents. Since its launch in 2013, the program has reached 345 schools across Brazil, India, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Poland, Hungary, Japan and Egypt, and is about to kick off as a pilot program in Argentina.
“When I conducted awareness sessions with parents, I realized that there is immense need to educate parents about type 1 diabetes, because in our society there is a strong perception that diabetes is the disease of adults,” said Danish Tariq, Medical Manager, Sanofi Pakistan.
The program has had a positive impact on the children, who have become more open to supporting their classmates when they inject themselves with insulin and are less afraid of injections themselves.
Students have also been inspired by the program to develop healthy eating habits. When students in one Polish community realized that their friend with type 1 diabetes could only eat a hamburger once a year, it made them think twice about what they were eating for lunch every day.
“When we launched KiDs in India, we had an eight-year-old boy tell us about his grandfather who had diabetes and still ate lots of chocolate. This boy has read about the different type of diabetes, hypo- and hyperglycemia, healthy habits and the side effects of diabetes non-compliance in the KiDS cartoon book and he wanted to hide his grandfather’s chocolate. This really brought to life the impact that KiDS can have on children and their surrounding communities,” said Maeva Germe, Medical Director, Global Scientific Engagement and Communication at Sanofi.
The main education material used to conduct awareness sessions and provided to communities includes the KiDS Diabetes Information Pack, the KiDS Educational Guide on Nutrition and Diabetes in Schools and the NutriQuiz, materials that are adapted to various socio-cultural environments and available in a variety of languages.
“The KiDS project stresses the importance of diabetes education from an early age. It aims to educate school staff, parents and children on type 1 diabetes and raise awareness of the need to prevent type 2 diabetes. We call on all government bodies responsible for health and education to introduce the material we have produced into their school curricula,” said Delphine Sartiaux, IDF Senior Partnership Manager.
“Collaborating on the KiDS program has been a memorable experience for me. To be able to inspire and create an impact on the diabetes ecosystem in a metropolitan city like Karachi, by engaging with young and eager minds willing to lend their ears, and seeing those tiny arms go flying up in the air when it came to the education session felt very gratifying,” said Dr Manahil Jeoffrey, trainer and doctor with KiDS in Pakistan.