Diabetes profoundly impacts a person’s life, increasing the risk of eye disease, kidney disease, limb amputation, heart attacks and stroke. A team of researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital have launched the first video of their project, dubbed DiaBiteSize, to help people develop the self-management skills needed to take control of their diabetes.

Self-management is the work those with diabetes do to reduce the risk of the disease’s long-term complications. People with diabetes have to make significant changes to their daily routine, including pricking their fingers to test their blood sugar levels, monitoring their diet and taking medications.  Self-management for people with Type 1 diabetes also means injecting themselves with insulin or wearing a pump 24-7, and many people with Type 2 diabetes need insulin to control their diabetes too..

“DiaBiteSize originally came from a desire to find ways to help young people with Type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Andrew Advani, who is an endocrinologist with the Diabetes Comprehensive Care Program of St. Michael’s and researcher in the hospital’s Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science.

Most people with Type 1 diabetes develop the condition during childhood or adolescence, when their parents or guardians often shoulder much of the burden of responsibility. However, as the person with diabetes reaches adulthood there is a gradual handover of care.

“At age 18, young people are considered adults by the health-care system and made responsible for their own care and well-being,” said Dr. Advani. “But many of them are not equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to take control of their diabetes. We realized that we should provide diabetes information to young people, using a relatable medium and we hit upon the explainer video.”

Dr. Advani and his partner on the project, Dr. Janet Parsons, a researcher with St. Michael’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute began developing their first explainer video for young adults and quickly realized that the medium has the potential to extend to all people with diabetes, not just millennials.

“With the launch of our first animated short film, we’ve provided information about ways of coping with diabetes that can be accessed from the clinic waiting room or from home, school or work,” said Dr. Parsons.

Dr. Parsons said she and Dr. Advani envision DiaBiteSize, as the catalyst for the development of a web-based interface that supports a series of animated films offering information about diabetes self-care – from how to fill prescriptions, to how to treat a low blood sugar, to how youth can take on increasing responsibility.

The pair expects that the format will enable DiaBiteSize to benefit not only patients at St. Michael’s, but also people with diabetes across the globe.

This pilot project was funded by the St. Michael’s Foundation’s Translational Innovation Fund and part of the hospital’s 2016 Angels’ Den research competition.