McMaster and HHS team launches website for families of children affected by diabetes during COVID-19

All families are affected by COVID-19, but this period is especially challenging for those whose children have a serious illness. To help support families affected by childhood diabetes, a team from McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences’ McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) has launched

When COVID related closures and physical distancing initiatives began in mid-March, the diabetes team at McMaster Children’s Hospital received numerous calls from concerned parents looking for reputable information about caring for their kids during COVID-19. These questions helped form the concept for a new resource focused on children’s emotional, physical and nutritional well-being.

“Typically, we provide face-to-face, interactive diabetes education to support patients and families. With virtual visits during COVID-19, we quickly found ourselves challenged by having to communicate with our patients and families through technology,” said M. Constantine Samaan, a pediatric endocrinologist at McMaster Children’s Hospital and an associate professor, Department of Pediatrics, McMaster University.

“In addition to questions related to management of their child’s diabetes, parents are especially concerned about the potential impact of COVID-19 and asking wide-ranging questions such as: ‘What if my child gets COVID? What happens if a parent or sibling is symptomatic? What are the best cleaning processes? How can I keep my child active?”

Samaan assembled a team to address this need for credible information and a plan to support families with children at home. Health care providers, graduate, and undergraduate students quickly developed a website that serves as a comprehensive single source for high quality COVID-19 customized for families who have a child living with diabetes.

The website includes information about the pandemic, frequently asked questions and myths about COVID-19 and diabetes in children. It also has recommendations around managing diabetes with illness as well as lifestyle, education, games, indoor activities, and parenting in this era of COVID-19. Another important set of resources relates to mental well-being and how to talk to children and youth about COVID-19.

‘Much of this information is useful to all families, regardless of whether a child in the home has diabetes,’ added Samaan.

The website content is curated from many credible government and international agencies with up to date evidence as it becomes available.

Funding support for this digital innovation was provided by the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation.

The team is also working on a virtual lifestyle intervention program for children and families to help maintain physical and mental health during the pandemic.

“With around 1.5 billion children around the world out of school during this pandemic, managing illnesses and maintaining physical, emotional, and nutritional health is especially important,” said Samaan.

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