Midwifery researchers are tailoring gestational diabetes education to meet the needs of diverse communities.
Project leader Professor Mary Carolan-Olah said many culturally and linguistically diverse clientele lacked appropriate information on gestational diabetes.
“Sunshine Hospital in Melbourne’s west sees three times the national average of gestational diabetes, mostly because it has large numbers of women from Indian and south Asian ethnicities who typically record higher rates of the disease,” she said.
“This challenge is further compounded by cultural and linguistic barriers, and sometimes poor health literacy, that makes communicating how to manage gestational diabetes a difficult and growing challenge.”
Gestational diabetes can lead to longterm problems if not dealt with during the pregnancy – these can include predisposing the child to obesity and heart disease. However, if well looked after during the pregnancy, the likelihood of any long-term problems is greatly reduced.
With support from Diabetes Australia Research Trust and the Ian Potter Foundation, researchers have produced educational resources in English, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Hindi. The materials were researched and tested with diabetes educators, nurses and patients at Sunshine Hospital’s maternal health clinics to see what impact the right information could have.
Professor Carolan-Olah said the simple, user-friendly materials explained everything from what gestational diabetes is to tips on what food to buy and how to prepare it to keep mother and baby healthy. Recommendations for healthy recipes and shopping lists are tailored to various cultural groups.
“The women surveyed said the simple information helped them make sense of gestational diabetes and gave them practical steps to help them manage,” she said. “As well as finding it extremely useful they also said it allayed their anxieties of not being able to do anything about the condition for themselves or their baby.”
Western Health’s diabetes education services manager Cheryl Steele and the Sunshine Hospital dietetics team are also involved in the project.
Ultimately the resource will be made available online to all women presenting with gestational diabetes in Sunshine Hospital, while investigations into the best ways of delivering the information also recommended touch screens in waiting rooms.
“We found that presenting women with this information while they are in the waiting room for various checkups works the best, as they can simply browse the resources while they wait and while gestational diabetes is on their mind,” Professor Carolan-Olah said.
The resources were launched in 2014 and continue to be updated with testimonials from women who’ve already found success with the education program.
“The message from this program is that it’s not the end of the world with gestational diabetes – if you stick to the diet and exercise plan your diabetes will be much easier to manage,” she said.
Professor Carolan-Olah and colleague Professor Judy Sheeshka are also collaborating with University of Texas in El Paso, where a parallel intervention for Hispanic women with gestational diabetes is being researched and developed.
Her project is one of 20 featured in the new Research Highlights publication.