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Sensing Technology: A Game-Changer for Children Living with diabetes

By Maya du Plessis, Registered Dietitian

Glucose levels of people living with type 1 diabetes fluctuate constantly throughout the day and night. For children living with type 1 diabetes, managing their glucose levels at school is

really tricky. Constantly fluctuating glucose levels can be very stressful for children, their families and teachers.

Thankfully with advances in technology, wearable sensing technology is now available to individuals with type 1 diabetes. A small (The size of a R5 coin!) and discreet sensor

monitoring your glucose levels is placed on the back of the upper arm and measures glucose levels every minute, without having to do fingersticks. I’ve had experience in my practice of

children who used the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor and have seen how much sensing technology can improve quality of life for people living with diabetes.

The ability to constantly track glucose levels is life changing for school going children living with type 1 diabetes as well as their parents, teachers, myself and the rest of the healthcare

team. The vast amount of information the technology collects, promotes a greater understanding on how and why glucose levels fluctuate. When you are able to understand

more about what goes on inside your body and how certain variables affect your glucose levels you’ll be better equipped to make accurate management decisions.

Sensing technology allows school going children to quickly and painlessly check their glucose levels, oftentimes without others even knowing as they can scan the sensor over

clothing. Teachers can easily keep an eye on the child’s glucose levels and look out for any potentially dangerous high or low glucose levels. Parents are able to remotely monitor

their child’s glucose levels via the LibreLinkUp app, which brings some peace of mind.

Furthermore, sensing technology allows children with type 1 diabetes to safely take part in sport and also gives them more freedom to make independent food choices. Lastly, myself

and my paediatrician and endocrinologist colleagues are also able to remotely monitor glucose data which allows us to make better informed and individualised treatment

decisions.

Many research studies have shown that sensing technology can greatly improve glucose control(1), which when maintained can lead to a long, healthy life for individuals with type

1 diabetes. It should also be noted that adequate glucose control and prevention of diabetes related complications will save the healthcare system and medical aids a lot of

money and ultimately relieve a lot of strain on the overburdened and under-resourced health care system in South Africa (2,3). Sadly, not all children with type 1 diabetes in South

Africa have the financial means to use sensing technology and very few medical aids are willing to cover these costs. Some medical aids such as Discovery and Bonitas cover

sensing technology for children. Please speak to your healthcare professional and medical aid for more information. It is my hope that one day all children with type 1

diabetes in South Africa will have access to sensing technology.

1

Haller MJ, Stalvey MS, Silverstein JH. Predictors of control of diabetes: monitoring may be the key. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2004 May;144(5):660–1.

2

Baxter

M, Hudson R, Mahon J, Bartlett C, Samyshkin Y, Alexiou D, et al. Estimating the impact of better management of glycaemic control in adults with Type 1 and Type

2 diabetes on the number of clinical complications and the associated financial benefit. Diabetic Medicine. 2016 Apr 15;33(11):1575–81.

3 Mutyambizi C, Pavlova

M, Chola L, Hongoro C, Groot W. Cost of diabetes mellitus in Africa: a systematic review of existing literature. Globalization and Health. 2018 Jan 16;14.

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