A lifesaving Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot will take place in Nundah, which will be aimed at identifying infants aged 6-12 months who are at risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
The program will also be available to residents in the suburbs of Chermside, Bracken Ridge, and Ferny Hills, providing a significant opportunity for early detection.
Addressing the Urgent Need for Early Detection
Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune condition that can have severe and even fatal immediate and long-term health implications. Alarming statistics show that this condition affects 1 in 300 children in Australia, and what’s particularly challenging is that 90 per cent of these cases have no family history of the condition.
Consequently, this potentially life-threatening illness can be incredibly hard to identify, especially in infants, where its symptoms can often be mistaken for minor childhood concerns. Consequently, children often aren’t diagnosed until they become severely ill, necessitating emergency care.
To address this critical issue, the Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot offers a simple and free method to detect infants at risk. This initiative is being funded by JDRF and is spearheaded by a dedicated team at the University of Sydney.
Early Detection Saves Lives
Early detection is critical for ensuring better health outcomes for children who may be at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. This autoimmune condition is one of the most common chronic illnesses affecting children and adolescents. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, resulting in insulin deficiency.
Without insulin, the body cannot convert glucose from food into energy, leading to dangerous levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Early screening can identify very early signs of the condition before children start showing symptoms.
Dr. Gary Deed, a General Practitioner involved in the program’s development, highlights the significance of early detection.
“Type 1 Diabetes is a unique illness which doesn’t come from lifestyle choices. It may develop in very young people right through to older ages. The current problem is that early onset is often missed and children especially are presenting in severe medical crises called ketoacidosis, which can have both an immediate even fatal outcome but if the person can be managed there are longer term impacts of difficulty sustaining healthy outcomes compared to people who don’t have this alarming ketoacidosis presentation,” Dr Deed told Brisbane Suburbs Online News.
“This is why screening early, helps us support people at risk to be in touch with health professionals who can prevent serious outcomes mentioned and intervene where needed to offset the emotional and physical crises that are known to occur.
“My passion about knowing the real benefit this reseach project will bring from identifying at risk people/children and then the sheer effort in getting all the aspect of the trial aligned and in place, has required positive patience, but I know the benefits once rolled out will make a difference to families and children.”
A Vision for the Future
The Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot is a crucial step towards early detection and improved long-term health outcomes. The program has a broader vision of making early type 1 diabetes detection a routine part of childhood screening across Australia.
“Given that the goal of the pilot program is to make early type 1 diabetes detection available for every child in Australia and have it become part of routine childhood screening, where are we in terms of achieving that statewide (QLD) at the moment? What’s the critical path that needs to be taken and the barriers or challenges that you see? The goal of this Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot is to identify the best option for implementing screening for type 1 diabetes in children in Australia,” Dr Kirstine Bell from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkin Centre, who led the development of the program, said.
“A number of screening models have been very successful internationally. So we’re learning from these as well as other national and statewide public health programs in Australia, and then using this Pilot to partner with local communities, like Brisbane North, to understand how this screening should run in our health system and in the Australian population.
“Ultimately, the vision is for this to be a national, government-funded screening program. To achieve that, the government will look at all the evidence from this Pilot and from around the world, to determine if and how best to run a type 1 diabetes screening program.”
Dr Bell also said that the program is set to close at the end of 2024, but children identified as having an increased risk will continue to be monitored for five years to catch any early markers of the autoimmune condition. Over the next two years, the program aims to work with the government to build a roadmap towards full implementation.
Bronwen Manger, a local resident whose child has undergone the screening, emphasizes the simplicity and importance of the process.
“The screening process is simple and hassle-free. I was happy to see that it was available, and I could take proactive action to see if my child was at risk of type 1 diabetes,” she shared.
Simplified Process for Parents
Parents have been given an easy and accessible way to participate in the screening program. They can register for a free test kit online at www.KidsDiabetesScreen.com.au, and the kit will be conveniently delivered to their homes. The screening process involves collecting a saliva sample from the child’s mouth, which can then be sent for analysis.
The majority of children will receive a low-risk result from early screening. However, for those identified as having an increased risk, regular follow-up testing will be recommended to monitor early signs of the condition. The Screening Pilot is not just about identifying at-risk children but also about providing education and support to their families.