Background 1 in 700–1000 children in the UK have Type 1 Diabetes (T1DM), with an increasing incidence reported worldwide. Although there is increased awareness of diabetes amongst teenagers, their knowledge and perception of T1DM has not been reported in the UK.
Aim 1. Determine teenagers’ (11–18 year olds) perceptions and general knowledge of T1DM and compare with curriculum 2. Explore the relationships age, gender and having a friend with T1DM with knowledge of disease.
Methods A questionnaire survey of 11–18 year old pupils, at a suburban secondary school, was undertaken by a student (JCP) as a project after permission from school authorities. Data was collected and analysed using Excel programme.
Results The surveys were given to 980 pupils and 390 voluntarily completed them. Regarding general knowledge, the vast majority knew the pancreas secreted insulin (80%) and diabetes was due to the pancreas ‘not functioning well’ (70%). However, 31% did not think T1DM was a disease, including those closely related to someone with T1DM (12%). 35% thought T1DM was due to a deficiency of a ‘diet nutrient’. Only 39% knew that insulin decreased blood glucose with a significant percentage not knowing the role of insulin (29%). Knowledge of symptoms, part of GCSE curriculum, was variable (tiredness- 64%; excessive thirst -41%; excessive urination- 38%.) 41% thought weight gain instead of weight loss was a symptom. General perceptions about T1DM are accurate (diet, school trips, extra snacks) but interestingly only 78% and 53% of students thought T1DM did not affect academic ability or ability to exercise, respectively. Generally, knowledge and perceptions were more accurate in older age groups but gender or ‘knowing a person with diabetes’ had no effect.
Conclusions Teaching regarding T1DM at schools has imparted a number of facts but there is a knowledge gap. There are still incorrect perceptions of how Diabetes affects lifestyle, surprisingly even amongst those related to someone with T1DM. We believe there should be an improved and concerted public health and education initiative at improving awareness amongst schoolchildren. This could involve educational visits by the Diabetes MDT team and talks by children or staff with T1DM.