Trying to find at-risk children to provide them with early support
Being a child and having type 1 diabetes is a heavy burden. Most hate their disease and the restrictions it imposes. Some accept the situation, while others end up with major problems. Now, Dr Kevin Patrick Marks of Aarhus University has received a grant of DKK 1.1 million from the Danish Diabetes Academy to find out, through his PhD project, whether the risk of diabetic complications and mental illness in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is wholly or partly predictable from different psychosocial variables.
‘If that’s the case, diabetes clinicians will have a useful tool for early detection of T1D-risk children and adolescents, enabling them to intervene early with more intensive diabetes treatment and support for this group’, he says.
Kevin will have three supervisors: Consultant and Clinical Associate Professor Niels H. Birkebæk, Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital and Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus (SDCA); Professor of Psychology Mikael Thastum, Aarhus University; and Professor of Psychology Frans Pouwer, Odense University and Steno Diabetes Center Odense – ensuring top-calibre expertise in both medicine and psychology.
The background to the PhD project includes a major international cross-sectional study of Danish children with T1D, conducted in 2009. The results of the study – a PhD project carried out by psychologist Lene Juul Kristensen and the team around Kevin Marks – were published in six articles and a PhD thesis.
‘Psychosocial problems are known to be common in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes and to be a factor in poor blood sugar regulation’, says Kevin Patrick Marks. However, not much is known about the link between childhood and adolescent psychosocial problems and blood sugar regulation.
In the 2009 cross-sectional study, 1028 children/adolescents and their parents took part in a survey on diabetic treatment behaviour, family relationships, quality of life, emotional function and eating disorder symptoms, and the children’s diabetes regulation was determined at the same time. The researchers found many correlations between diabetes behaviour, psychosocial difficulties and poor blood sugar regulation.
‘However, the patients need to be followed over a long period in order to determine whether the correlations found in a cross-sectional study are significant in the long term, and this has not yet been studied on a large scale. We now have the opportunity to do that by combining this unique description of the Danish child/adolescent group from 2009 with data from the Danish registries such as the child and adult T1D registries between 2009 and 2019’, says Kevin Patrick Marks.
Kevin Patrick Marks MD
Aarhus University Hospital,
Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus and Faculty of Health, Aarhus University
45 51 80 43 40
Niels H Birkebæk PhD, Consultant
Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, and Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus
Mikael Thastum, Professor
Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University