Collaborative action to improve diabetes in pregnancy knowledge and awareness

This research translation project takes a collaborative approach to improve diabetes in pregnancy knowledge and awareness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the Northern Territory (NT). Specifically, this project aims to improve understanding of diabetes, particularly during pregnancy, in order to empower women to engage in screening, prevention and management. In discussing the intergenerational nature of diabetes, we intend to highlight that the heritability of diabetes is not just genetic and inevitable, but rather that improving maternal health may contribute to reversing current trends.

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the NT, one in five pregnancies is affected by diabetes. When a mother has diabetes, it increases the risk of serious pregnancy complications and can also impact the future health of both the mother and the baby. The good news is that lifestyle modification and, when necessary, medication can be helpful at preventing these complications. Addressing health early in pregnancy or, ideally, prior to pregnancy is important.

In the NT, the majority of Aboriginal women with diabetes in pregnancy live in a regional or remote setting and only a third speak English as their first language. In spite of this, educational resources for women with diabetes are almost universally in English and mostly in written formats. In recent consultative work by Menzies researchers, women with diabetes in pregnancy reported difficulty understanding the education provided to them by health professionals. Key lifestyle messages were acknowledged but understanding of diabetes and why it needed to be treated were limited. Some women reported a sense of inevitability about getting diabetes because it was so common in their family.

Responding to these needs, this project will develop culturally-appropriate community education and awareness resources in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the NT Diabetes Network. The communication strategy, which will include key messages, will be developed in close consultation with Aboriginal community members to ensure clarity and relevance.

We intend to create a series of short animated videos, available with narration in several First Languages. These will be made freely available to consumers online. They will also be promoted for use by clinicians who conduct client education. Clinicians will be advised of the resources directly through existing professional networks. Additionally, links to access the resources will be created in clinical support packages within electronic medical records.

Implementation of this project will involve engagement with several key stakeholders including NT Department of Health, NT Diabetes Network, Top End Health Service, Central Australia Health Service, NT Primary Health Network and Diabetes Australia.

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