Diabetes study examines better glucose management for Indigenous Australians

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Pictured above: Professor David O'Neal

An unobtrusive button-shaped device about the size of a 20-cent coin is being used in a research study that is investigating ways to improve glucose management in Indigenous Australians with Type 2 diabetes.

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) is one of 17 clinical trial sites involved in this national multi-centre research project that is assessing how a Flash Glucose Monitor could potentially improve health outcomes for a group that is five times more likely to be admitted to hospital with diabetes complications.

These complications range from cardiovascular issues through to renal impairment.

The randomised controlled trial is focused on Indigenous people with Type 2 diabetes currently on injectables (insulin and/or GLP 1 analogues) as a form of treatment. It is investigating using the monitoring device to potentially help maintain a patient’s sugar levels instead of traditional finger-pricking testing.

Professor David O’Neal, a Senior Endocrinologist at SVHM, and one of the study’s Chief Investigators, said this is particularly important research for a vulnerable and disadvantaged group known to have a high incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

“We need to address this very significant health problem in the community,” said Prof O’Neal.

He explained that one of the best ways to improve people’s glucose control was to provide them with better glucose information and empowering the person with diabetes and their healthcare professionals to identify any behavioural patterns that could be compromising their glucose levels.

“By doing this, interventions can be implemented in a timelier manner,” said Prof O’Neal.

Improving access and ease

The Flash Glucose Monitor provides continuous glucose monitoring for patients. The device is designed to sit flat on an individual’s arm and can measure readings every five minutes using either a card reader or phone app.

“If sugars are detected as high or low, the device automatically emits an alarm, which is a far better option and less intrusive than relying on a finger-prick test initiated by the person with diabetes,” said Prof O’Neal.

These devices have been proven to help monitor and maintain glucose levels in people with Type 2 in the general population. However, Prof O’Neal said there is a gap in the evidence.

“We don’t have the data for our Indigenous population, who we propose could potentially benefit substantially from using this technology,” he explained.

“What we hope to see following completion of this research is that those using these devices will be proactive in addressing aspects of their day-to-day lives that may be having adverse effects on their glucose levels and enable them to bring them into a healthy range.”

The device is currently subsidised for all people with Type 1 diabetes but Prof O’Neal explained that the majority of those with diabetes in Australia are living with Type 2.

“If this study’s outcomes demonstrate that the device is of benefit, we hope it will help support efforts to subsidise the monitor for Indigenous groups with Type 2 diabetes as well, with the aim of improving access and wellbeing in a disadvantaged and vulnerable group of people, who through no fault of their own have suffered poor health outcomes,” said Prof O’Neal.

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Pictured above: The Flash Glucose Monitoring device

Working together to improve health outcomes

St Vincent’s has contributed to developing the study protocols and members of the Indigenous community were engaged in the project’s design and implementation, as well as reviewing the study conduct.

“This study truly does follow the spirit of co-design,” said Prof O’Neal.

The project aligns with St Vincent’s Mission of ensuring that the needs of disadvantaged groups are addressed but also bringing their lot into the mainstream to help improve their situation, so they are no longer disadvantaged.”

The study is being led by Professor Elif Ekinci, Director of the Australian Centre for Accelerating Diabetes Innovations at the University of Melbourne.

For more information on the trial, visit: https://www.diabetestechnologyresearchgroup.com.au/flashgm/