OMAHA — Creighton University has been awarded two grants to improve medical outcomes for people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in rural areas of Nebraska and Iowa, where receiving access to specialized care is challenging for people affected by the condition.

With nearly $300,000 in funding between the two grants, interprofessional teams from Creighton University are engaging and recruiting community stakeholders and families with connection to Type 1 diabetes to help identify health management challenges and provide the solutions to overcome them, according to a press release.

The first grant for $247,020 was funded by Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and supports developing two patient-centered focus groups in rural communities to identify treatment barriers and develop solutions to overcome service gaps.

In Nebraska, the only pediatric endocrinologists in the state are located in Omaha. Vanessa Jewell, vice chair and assistant professor in Creighton University’s occupational therapy department, is leading the engagement project. She is also a mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes.

“There are significant differences in the health outcomes between those who live closer to areas where specialized care is available,” Jewell said. “The project will focus on helping people make informed health care decisions and improve health care delivery and outcomes by producing and promoting evidence-based information that comes from research guided by patients, caregivers and the broader health care community.”

An advisory team comprised of community stakeholders is also assisting Creighton faculty and students involved with the project. It includes a young adult diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a mother to a child with the condition, a health care provider and a representative from an advocacy group. They are recruiting participants for two focus groups.

The first focus group will identify processes that work well and highlight issues experienced after diagnosis. Themes from the first study will be presented to a second focus group recruited to develop creative solutions to identified challenges. Based on the findings from both focus groups, Creighton’s faculty and students and the advisory team will create a research agenda and submit for a larger grant to study the effectiveness of the ideas implemented from the focus groups.

“We are recruiting a diverse group of people for our focus groups that all have connection to Type 1 diabetes — broader than people who have Type 1 diabetes and their families,” Jewell said.“We want to include health care providers, school staff that work with children with Type 1, people involved in legislation, and medical billing and durable medical equipment representatives. We want to involve all of them and learn from their experiences to inform the research agenda we propose so we can address the whole spectrum of patient support after diagnosis.”

Focus groups are open to those who have Type 1 diabetes, have a connection to individuals with the condition or provide care to them. Participants must also live in rural Nebraska or Iowa (at least one hour outside of Omaha or Des Moines) and be between 8 and 80 years of age. Each participant will receive a $25 gift card. To volunteer to be in a focus group or for more information, please visit spahp.creighton.edu/diabetes.

An additional interprofessional team led by Jewell recently received a second grant for $49,340 from Creighton University’s Health Science Strategic Investment Faculty Development Fund to support its research on the effectiveness of occupation-based telehealth treatment services for Type 1 diabetes in rural areas. The study focuses on the health of the entire family unit after a child receives a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. The intervention provides telehealth services for a period of three months.

“This study provides coaching delivered to entire families to help them make the transition after diagnosis and measure the outcomes of receiving that care,” Jewell said.

The team conducting the two-year study includes a Creighton University School of Medicine endocrinologist, and an occupational therapist, pharmacist, nurse and statistician from the Creighton School of Pharmacy and Health Professions. The study on telehealth services is not actively seeking participants yet. When recruitment begins, information will be provided at spaph.creighton.edu/diabetes.

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