Approximately 10 per cent of Canadians live with diabetes and one in 300 children live with Type 1 diabetes, according to Dr. Angelo Simone, a paediatric endocrinologist at Trillium Health Partners, during a webinar hosted by Benefits Canada and sponsored by Abbott in April.
As a parent caring for two children living with Type 1 diabetes, Melissa Zimmermann of Lethbridge, Alta. explained it’s a constant challenge to monitor and calculate her sons’ food intake, health and activity levels to determine how to best manage their glucose levels. “It can be difficult to delegate this care to their school, daycare or other caregivers and not be concerned about their well-being,” she said.
Based on 25 years of treating children with Type 1 diabetes, Simone said their health may take parents away from the workplace, either due to a child who’s sick or experiencing an unusual glucose event, which can lead to additional doctor or emergency room visits. “Managing children’s Type 1 diabetes requires parents to provide 24/7 care until their children are self-sufficient,” he said.
People living with Type 1 diabetes require ongoing monitoring of their glucose levels to ensure they remain within the target range, prevent cases of severe low or high blood sugar and determine appropriate treatment.
Traditional glucose testing requires a finger prick to draw a blood sample to be measured by a glucometer. According to Zimmermann, this can be challenging for children and many schools or daycares won’t help with the testing due to the presence of blood. As a result, parents may have to leave work to test their child’s glucose.
Flash glucose monitoring systems like the FreeStyle Libre 2 measure glucose levels by scanning a sensor worn by the patient and the readings can be shared to a caregiver’s phone via an app for remote monitoring, said Simone, noting the system also allows for optional alarms to be established to detect impending low glucose levels and can save money by eliminating the cost of test strips and reducing severe low glucose events.
Without this information, “parents have no way to confirm how their child is doing unless they call them or their caregiver,” said Zimmermann. “They are constantly on your mind while you’re trying to focus on work.”
In the past, she worried that if her boys didn’t pay attention to their symptoms, they could have a low glucose event and lose consciousness. The alarm, she said, “puts my mind at ease and allows my sons to have some independence without sacrificing their health.”
Not only do flash glucose monitoring systems improve caregivers’ productivity and reduce absenteeism, “the sensor technology has demonstrated — in both paediatric and adult studies — that it leads to a reduction in low glucose levels, known as hypoglycemia, as well as a reduction in A1C,” said Simone. “It is well documented that a two per cent reduction in A1C can cut the risk of major complications, such as kidney disease and blindness, by 50 per cent.”
Canadian private benefits plans include a wide variety of coverage criteria for flash glucose monitoring systems. “Anyone living with diabetes would benefit from using this system,” said Simone.
“As a parent, I think this technology should be available for any child living with Type 1 diabetes,” said Zimmermann. “It allows a child more freedom to be a child and leads to less worry and stress for their parents.”
During the webinar, Simone and Zimmermann both encouraged plan sponsors to inquire whether their benefits plans cover flash glucose monitoring systems. In addition to clinical benefits that lead to positive long-term health outcomes, these are beneficial to employers because they allow working parents to be more focused at work and subsequently more productive when they use the system’s app to monitor their children’s glucose remotely.