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Profs help Somali kids with diabetes

MNDailySomali children in Minnesota suffer from Type 1 diabetes at higher rates than non-Somalis do, but getting access to necessary treatment information can be difficult for those East African communities.

The University of Minnesota and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota are partnering to research better ways to inform Somali parents about treating their diabetic children.

The two-year project, which will begin this month, aims to teach families how to better control insulin doses and food intake.
The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and other institutions awarded $200,000 to the researchers to make informational videos and handouts, though additional funding will be added as needed, said Dr. Jennifer Kyllo, an endocrinologist at Children’s Hospitals and lead on the project.
“The unique thing about this project is that it’s going to provide the same quality of education, not only by translating it, but also by adding the culturally relevant pieces that are very specific to their community,” said Muna Sunni, a pediatric endocrinology assistant professor at the University and a project lead.
Sunni said educational materials will be made available to Somali parents in medical clinics, online and as videos by the end of the project.
The researchers also plan to visit Somali families across Minnesota to distribute copies of the videos in communities where going online isn’t an option, Sunni said.
“Parents — especially mothers — have a hard time reading in their own language, so having the videos in their own language at home will help them grasp more of the
education than just the surface,” she said.
Sunni and Kyllo plan to create a list of typical Somali foods with their carbohydrate levels, which are a major contributor to worsening effects of Type 1 diabetes — data which,
Sunni said, is new to the East African population in Minnesota. She said high carbohydrate consumption can also lead to high blood pressure.
Traditional Somali food is usually cooked from scratch, so families often are unaware of the carbohydrate intake, she said. And although some Somali stores list nutritional information on their products, families often disregard portion control, Sunni said.
“When you eat toast, you know exactly how many grams of carbohydrates you’re eating,” she said. “Somalis make their own bread from scratch, and they don’t know how much they’re eating.”
The videos and pamphlets will also address the benefits of Western eating habits, like eating at certain times of the day, Kyllo said.
Though the new information won’t cure Type 1 diabetes, the researchers hope it’ll help Somali patients manage it.
Some Somali parents have already volunteered their time to inform other parents about the project, Sunni said.
“The first step of this project is to recruit focus groups and go out to diabetic Somali communities and find out what works for them,” Kyllo said.

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