e-Learning for People Living with Diabetes: The Role of Diabetes Self-Management Education in Today’s Landscape
In today’s environment, where misinformation is commonplace, and health education in a face-to-face setting can be difficult to access, there has never been a greater need for credible, evidence-based diabetes education to support diabetes self-management.
Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) has been an established treatment intervention in diabetes management for the past 25 years, focusing on shared-decision making and empowerment in self-care behaviour to improve clinical outcomes and quality of life7. The key components of DSME include lifestyle modification to reduce diabetes-related modifiable risk factors such as increased physical activity and healthy eating, medication compliance and blood glucose self-monitoring10. National and international guidelines recommend diabetes self-management education (DSME) as a fundamental component of diabetes care, optimising diabetes outcomes2,3,4.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, DSME was delivered by health professionals in a face-to-face setting. This has decreased since the pandemic as a result of ongoing lockdowns and social distancing restrictions2. The implications of COVID-19 lockdowns have also negatively impacted behavioural risk factors and quality of life for people living with diabetes1, potentially increasing the risk for diabetes-related complications and poorer long-term health outcomes2.
COVID-19 has been a catalyst for significant developments in the digital health sector over the past couple of years, including the expansion of research into digital education and support programs for people living with or at risk of developing diabetes 2,5,6,9. In response to the growing need for online support services, the National Diabetes Service Scheme (NDSS) has developed a suite of online education and support programs designed to educate, support and foster diabetes self-management. These online programs include; Type 2 diabetes and me, Ready, set, go, let’s move, Carb Counting, MyDESMOND, and Baby Steps. In addition to these programs, Diabetes NSW & ACT and Diabetes Qualified developed an online program Living with Insulin.
Type 2 diabetes and me
Type 2 diabetes and me first launched in 2020, designed to provide information and support to people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The online program consists of 10 modules, each takes about 15 minutes. Participants can choose one or do all ten modules, based on their interests. The modules cover a range of topics, including:
Ready, set, go, let’s move online
Ready, set, go, let’s move online is an adapted version of the successful NDSS Ready, set, go, let’s move program. Launched in July 2021, the Ready, set, go, let’s move online program aims to support people living with diabetes to take the next step in becoming (more) physically active. Research has shown that a modest decrease in weight can positively and significantly improvement insulin sensitivity, glucose levels, blood pressure and stress11. Increasing one’s level of physical activity will allow most people to achieve positive changes in their weight and glycaemic control.
The program consists of four modules, taking approximately 2 hours to complete. The modules include:
Carb Counting, also launched in July 2021, provides basic education about carbohydrates (carbs) and carb counting for people living with diabetes. Research has shown that people who understand carbohydrates and carbohydrate counting have improved glycaemic control12. The Carb Counting program aims to supplement education people receive from their health professional and offers an alternative teaching method for carb awareness and carb counting for those unable to attend face-to-face consultations.
The program has 11 modules covering:
Living with Insulin
Living with Insulin is designed for anyone living with diabetes who is on insulin or who is about to start using insulin. The program has 11 modules, each approximately 15 minutes. Topics include; types of insulin, insulin supplies and storage, insulin injection technique, blood glucose management, emotional health, managing sick days, travel and finding support. The program is also available as an app via scanning a QR code on the Living with Insulin website.
MyDESMOND & Baby Steps
All Australians registered with the National Diabetes Service Scheme (NDSS) are eligible to enrol in the online program. MyDESMOND is currently available both as an app and on a desktop, comprising of diabetes education, a chat forum and a health tracker.
MyDESMOND Baby Steps was designed as an add-on to the MyDESMOND program and is also a free, online, interactive self-management education and behaviour-change program. The program has been designed for non-pregnant women with a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes to support and empower them to make healthy lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The MyDESMOND Baby Steps program launched in April 2021.
Benefits of digital education and support programs for people living with diabetes
Leading health professionals and eLearning specialists develop the NDSS online education and support programs. As a result, the content is evidence-based, and designed with the end-user in mind. The programs are easy to access from the comfort of home and offers the opportunity for people to digest information at a pace that suits the goals and needs of each individual. These programs are not designed to replace the health advice people receive from their health provider; instead, and especially in the era of COVID-19, they aim to provide innovative and accessible education and support so people feel empowered and engaged in their diabetes self-management. Please encourage the people you see living with diabetes, to access these programs.