Following on from her award Karen Ross sits down with Georgina Campbell to talk about the importance of empowering young people with diabetes.

DIABETES is commonly associated with adults who, through poor diets and lack of exercise, get the illness later in their life.

But Karen Ross, who runs the Diabetes Education Programme at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, is helping to educate the county about diabetes in children.

Currently, Mrs Ross is in charge of 360 children, the majority of who suffer from type one diabetes.

Type one is an autoimmune condition, where the immune system attacks healthy body tissue by mistake

Mrs Ross said: “There is this big misconception that children with type one diabetes have got it because they’ve had too many sweets and a poor diet.

“That is not the case at all, and we work with children at all levels to help educate them on how to measure their blood glucose, use their insulin pump, and how to manage their illness.

“We want to empower these young people and families so they can lead an independent life.

“We only have three children who we work with that have type two diabetes.”

The diabetes education programme not only supports children in primary school, but also right through to the teenage years.

Mrs Ross added: “I think the youngest child I’ve worked with was about six months-old.

“We find that in primary schools there is a lot of support for children with diabetes but as soon as they get to secondary school that goes.

“Children will get told off for doing a blood glucose check under their desk because a teacher thinks they’re on their mobile phone.

“And then the student does not keep up with their blood glucose checks because they think they will get in trouble, so it really is not just about education and supporting the children, it is also about educating the school.”

The team travel across the county holding sessions at schools and village halls to help support youngsters and their families. They also organise a weekend away for the children.

Mrs Ross said: “That weekend is for many the first time they have been away from their parents, which can be quite daunting for some of them.

“For the teenagers especially they get a lot out of being around other students in their situation and they support each other a lot on social media.”

The programme and the weekend-away are completely funded by the parents of the children in the programme and charitable donations.

It costs £3,000 a year to run the programme and £8,000 for the weekend away.

Mrs Ross said: “It is remarkable really that throughout the year the parents of the children will contact charitable trusts.

“And then the children themselves will do little fundraisers to pay for the programme.”

Mrs Ross said the support and technology has developed significantly from when she first began working in diabetes 23 years ago.

She added: “I remember when I first started you would be mixing insulin in syringes and now 45 per cent of people with diabetes are using insulin pumps.

“The John Radcliffe is involved in some really exciting research, which is looking to try and automate insulin pumps.”