Hamad Medical Corporation
Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Diabetes Care Program cares for more than 1200 diabetic children making it one of the largest centers in the region dedicated to the treatment and study of diabetes in children.
The prevalence of diabetes in Qatar is continuing to increase. Recent statistics indicate that about 17 percent of the Qatari adult population is thought to have the chronic disease and that an additional 11 percent of the population is pre-diabetic.
About 85 percent of the diabetic children treated at Hamad General Hospital (HGH) have type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually first diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can occur at any age. It is believed to result from autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, leading to increased blood glucose. Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is a deficiency in insulin, or when the body does not respond correctly to insulin, and is caused by factors such as family history and genetics, low activity level, unhealthy diet and excess body weight.
Children who present with type 1 diabetes are normally diagnosed in the pediatric emergency department. They are transferred to the Pediatric Diabetes Care Program at HGH within hours of arriving at the emergency department. The need for treatment is almost always immediate and many parents and caregivers will experience denial upon hearing the diagnosis.
Pediatric Diabetes Care Program, Dr. Fawziya Ali Khalaf A. Al-Khalaf, Head of the program and Senior Consultant of the Pediatric Endocrinology/Diabetes section at HGH says caring for diabetic children is a balancing act that parents must master. “Parents and caregivers need to understand the severity of their child’s condition, but the multi-disciplinary team must be sensitive and ensure they don’t scare or overwhelm the family with information. Educating the entire family is a key component to treating children with diabetes,” she stressed.
“Family support is an integral part of well-managed diabetes care and the diagnosis of diabetes in a child may change the entire family dynamic. The first step in treating the child is building a relationship with their family, or primary caregivers, in order to ensure they are receptive to receiving the information they will need to care for the child,” said Dr. Al-Khalaf.
“The first explanation that a parent or caregiver is given is that if they adhere to the treatment plan, the life of a child with diabetes can be normal. They are told that diabetes should not keep the child from achieving their highest goals. Family support and understanding can make all the difference,” explained Dr. Al-Khalaf.
“We often need to educate people that diabetes isn’t a transient disease. Ensuring that family members are educated on appropriate diabetes management is the key to developing a management routine,” said Dr. Al-Khalaf. “Our multi-disciplinary team will teach the parent or caregiver about diabetes. We help families create, and use, a diabetes management plan.”
Type 1 diabetes demands a life-long commitment that requires blood sugar monitoring, insulin, healthy eating and regular exercise. As a child grows and changes, so too must his or her diabetes management plan.
“Being told that your child is diabetic can be stressful. The diagnosis can lead to many strong emotions. The goal of diabetes management is to help children live long, healthy, productive lives. We focus on educating the entire family and our treatment protocol addresses both the body and the mind,” added Dr. Al-Khalaf.