Collaborative research project to improve diabetes knowledge among Minnesota-Somali children and their families

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota are teaming up to develop new diabetes educational materials for Minnesota-Somali children and their families.
“We’ve noticed that the Somali children we’re treating have worse type 1 diabetes control than their non-Somali counterparts. We believe that a potential contributing factor stems from a lack of culturally relevant education materials,” said Muna Sunni, MBBCh, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology in the University of Minnesota Medical School and physician at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Sunni and Jennifer Kyllo, M.D., an endocrinologist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, will develop new educational materials to address this issue through funding provided by the first Child Health Collaborative Grant Award, a $200,000 two-year grant funded by the University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics, and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
“For years Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota have been helping kids control diabetes and live a healthier life,” said Rob Payne, M.D., medical director for research at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “But, in working with our community, we learned that there was room for improvement. This generous grant will help reduce the life-altering consequences of childhood diabetes.”
The researchers will work with parents of Somali children with type 1 diabetes to identify cultural gaps and barriers affecting care, such as mealtime customs, religious practices and food preferences. Educational materials will be produced in Somali, including videos, which will reach a larger audience and bypass literacy barriers.
“We hope these videos and other culturally relevant materials will be implemented in Somali communities across the U.S.,” said Kyllo. “By creating a model for educating Somali and other minority groups, we could make a huge impact on a wide range of health issues.”
Child Health Collaborative Grant 
The grant concept emerged from discussions between Payne and Mark R. Schleiss, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and leader of the Child Health Initiative for the CTSI. “We created this grant program with our partners within the University and at Children’s because we realized the tremendous potential that partnerships – like the one Drs. Sunni and Kyllo formed – have in tackling child health issues,” Schleiss said.
Through the Child Health Collaborative Grant, CTSI and its community research partners will continue to fund future research collaborations outside the University that address important, unmet child health issues in Minnesota. It will be awarded every two years.
Visionaries behind the grant program hope it will be yet another thread that unites child health specialists across the state in their shared mission of improving the quality of – and access to – care.