July 19, 2023

NIH awards $3M to Wayne State to impact Black youth with type 1 diabetes

A Wayne State University School of Medicine professor has received a $3 million award from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health to develop an intervention aimed at improving health outcomes in Black youth with type 1 diabetes.

Deborah Ellis, Ph.D.

In type 1 diabetes – also known as juvenile diabetes – the body does not produce insulin. Rates of diagnosis are rising faster among Black youth than white youth. The disparities Black youth face, including environmental and socioeconomic factors, increase their risk for diabetes complications.

The five-year award, “Family mHealth Intervention to Improve Health Outcomes in Black Youth with Type 1 Diabetes: A Multi-Center Randomized Controlled Trial,” will test a brief intervention delivered through mobile health technology intended to optimize family interactions related to diabetes care. The intervention has the potential to improve the health of this vulnerable population and their primary caregivers.

Deborah Ellis, Ph.D., director of the Division of Behavioral Sciences and professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences in Wayne State’s School of Medicine, said Black adolescents with type 1 diabetes face disparities in health outcomes, including higher risk for elevated blood glucose levels, which can lead to diabetes complications. Family-based interventions have commonly been used as a strategy to promote optimal adolescent health, but few randomized clinical trials have focused on the needs of Black adolescents with the disease.

“Family-based interventions for Black adolescents with type 1 diabetes hold the potential to improve the health of not only the youth, but their caregivers as well,” Dr. Ellis said. “mHealth (mobile health) interventions are one way to increase the accessibility of behavioral health interventions to Black families. Our research group has developed and tested a culturally-tailored, brief mHealth intervention that provides advice to parents about how to best support their adolescent to complete their daily diabetes care.”

Results of the research team’s recent clinical trial testing of an earlier version of the intervention delivered during diabetes clinic visits show promising results. Adolescents whose caregivers received the intervention had improved glycemic control. Dr. Ellis and her team plan to work with community advisory boards to improve the intervention and will deliver it through a mobile health platform accessible via cellphone. The team hopes to not only help youth improve their diabetes health, but also to positively affect diabetes-related family relationships and reduce caregiver diabetes-related distress.

“Our study holds the potential to impact the health of more than 200 Black adolescents with (type 1 diabetes) and their primary caregivers,” Dr. Ellis. “If successful, it will have a long-term impact on the future health of study participants and their family members in the years to come.”

The project number for this National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health R01 award is MD018583.

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