A new national project aims to improve the way diabetes is managed in schools.
In a joint release on Wednesday, Sept. 3, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) unveiled the Kids and Diabetes in Schools (KiDS) project, which is a series of initiatives aimed at keeping children with diabetes safe, healthy and fully involved in school activities.
The project includes an information pack offering resources to teachers, children and parents, along with training sessions to educate school personnel on diabetes, the symptoms associated with high and low blood sugar, and how to respond in case of emergency situations.
It also includes an iPad app to help school personnel quickly access crucial information about diabetes so they will know how to assist students living with diabetes.
The project aims to support the management of Type 1 diabetes in schools and support the prevention of Type 2 diabetes, which is on the rise among younger age groups.
“Our goal is to improve the health, safety and participation of the 33,000 elementary and high school children in Canada with diabetes. A team-based approach is needed for them,” said CDA president Rick Blickstead.
“We are delighted to work with governments and school boards to develop needed policies as well as helping school personnel, children and parents across Canada to support these children as much as possible.”
As part of the project, the CDA has released new guidelines and a position statement relating to students with diabetes at school.
The position statement calls for school boards to provide trained personnel to safely administer insulin and monitor blood glucose, food intake and activity for students who are unable to perform these activities independently. School personnel should be trained to recognize emergency situations and to respond appropriately according to the student’s individual care plan (ICP), the association states.
The document also calls for school personnel to be trained to administer glucagon in the event of a severe hypoglycemic reaction.
Teachers are always concerned for the health and well-being of their students so any effort to improve these as they relate to diabetes is welcome, but this new project also raises some questions for Alberta teachers, says Marv Hackman, a staff officer in Member Services at the Alberta Teachers’ Association who has written and conducted workshops on dealing with medical issues in schools.
Parents of children with diabetes will have to communicate with their school board to request that resources be available in school, Hackman said.
“If a school district does choose to provide that medical service, it cannot be performed by a teacher or by a school principal simply because the courts have spoken to the issue of ‘dedicated service,’” he said.
Dedicated service is the idea that a person serving a child at any given time must be able to have total focus on that child.
“The reality is that a teacher has the competing needs of anywhere from 20 to 40 other students in a classroom, so they can’t provide that dedicated service,” Hackman said.
Further suggestions in the CDA’s new guidelines call for school personnel to participate in annual diabetes education, which should include emergency procedures for treating moderate to severe hypoglycemia/hyperglycemia.
The guidelines also call for a formal communication system that includes all school personnel who come into contact with a student with diabetes. This should include appointing at least one staff member to be a point-of-contact for the student and parent/guardian.
Other suggestions are as follows:
- Identify the student with diabetes to all school personnel, including volunteers, substitute teachers, student teachers and support staff. With permission from the student and parent/guardian, some schools may choose to display identifying information in the staff room or office and/or have emergency information folders made available to all personnel.
These folders should contain the student’s care plan, information about diabetes as well as information specific to the student. Medical alert stickers can also be placed on the student’s file to further identify the student.
- Display posters identifying symptoms of hypoglycemia/hyperglycemia in key locations throughout the school.
- Provide at least 24 hours’ notice whenever possible to a parent/guardian of any change in school routine or of upcoming special events.
Hackman pointed out that individual care plans could be more than schools can handle.
“I understand why people who are representing children’s diabetes would ask for an individual plan automatically with every child, but I’m not certain that school districts have the capacity to do that,” he said.
“It would be unrealistic to have teachers and administrators providing medical plans rather than instructional plans.”
The Association believes that medical services required by students during school hours must be provided by competent health care personnel and has asked the provincial government to provide integrated health services in schools. ❚
The KiDS global project information pack for schools is available for free in six languages at www.idf.org/education/kids.
The KiDS and Diabetes in Schools app is available at the Apple app store.