In July 2012 I made my first trip to Vietnam as Education Manager for the International Diabetes Federation Life for a Child Program (IDF LFAC) and also as a support health professional for Caring and Living as Neighbours (CLAN).
The LFAC Program, established in 2001 with support from the Australian Diabetes Council and HOPE worldwide, assists diabetes centers in the developing world with insulin, diabetes equipment and education for children and youth with diabetes up to the age of 26 years. Life for a Child CLAN is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the dream that all children living with chronic health conditions in resource-poor countries of the world will enjoy a quality of life on par with that of their neighbors in wealthier countries.
My first stop in Vietnam was the National Children’s Hospital (NCH) in Hanoi, a beautiful city situated on a picturesque lake with lots of leafy trees and interesting buildings, especially in the Old Quarter.
At NCH, the CLAN Diabetes Club is held annually for children and young people ages 5-23 (approximately 105 people) with diabetes to attend day long activities with their parents and carers. On arrival at the center the children and young people have their weight and height measured and their blood glucose level and HbA1c checked. They are then encouraged to mingle and get to know one another.
The Diabetes Club program began with a troupe of local boys and girls who entertained us with vibrant Vietnamese song and dance. One young girl with diabetes performed a dance routine, however, she became shy and embarrassed in the middle and couldn’t complete it – such a shame as she was doing well, with much encouragement from her mother, the staff and the audience.
Next, a woman who has had type 1 diabetes since she was 8 years old (she is now 45 years old with children of her own) was introduced as a role model for the families, children and young people. It is always encouraging for families to meet people who have had diabetes for many years and have managed well.
The presentations from health professionals commenced with Professor Maria Craig from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia who spoke on self blood glucose monitoring and complications.” Translation was required as the majority of the audience, which included parents, young people and children did not speak English. I then, with a translator, spoke about school and management of diabetes. This topic had not been included in previous Diabetes Clubs and was received with much interest. As I spoke I noticed much nodding of heads, attentiveness, and relief on parents’ faces. Finally, someone was addressing the issues they all worry about. Even the children looked interested. It appears that school issues are the same the world over, though the degree of resource availability, both of written educational materials and educator manpower, varies. Questions from the audience were fast and furious and covered all aspects of diabetes management.
A local video with a powerful message was made of the day – CLAN Hanoi Diabetes Club video:
From Hanoi our group of visiting health professional group travelled to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, to conduct a two day workshop on behalf of the International Paediatric and Adolescent Diabetes Society (ISPAD) for local health professionals from Children’s Hospital 1(CH1) and Children’s Hospital 2 (CH2). Topics included all aspects of diabetes management and were well received, particularly the interactive sessions.
We were also invited to visit one of the wards at CH2 to meet some of the patients with diabetes that the CLAN and the LFAC Program helps. There are 70 children under 15 years of age with diabetes attending the center at CH2. Ninety percent of them have type 1 diabetes, three percent have type 2 diabetes, 1 percent has neonatal diabetes and six percent have other unspecified types. Health insurance is provided by the government for children until the age of 6 years, and then the families must pay for supplies themselves, thus the much needed assistance required from the LFAC Program.
Education materials translated into Vietnamese have been distributed within the country, including the Australian Parent Manual, Caring for Diabetes in Children and Adolescents and Professor Bumblebee’s Guide to Type 1 Diabetes, a 12 minute animated DVD depicting what happens to a child’s body when they have type 1 diabetes. These resources can be found on the LFAC Education website on the Vietnamese page.
The Vietnamese people were lovely and welcoming, and the country beautiful. I hope to return one day to see happy and healthy diabetes patients.
Angie Middlehurst, Education Manager, International Diabetes Federation, Life for a Child Program, Sydney Australia