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Tackling inequalities in access to diabetes tech – Chris Askew 

Our Chief Executive, Chris Askew OBE, reflects on the stark inequalities in access to diabetes tech faced by children and young people with type 1 diabetes in socially deprived areas and from ethnic minority backgrounds. He challenges government to robustly tackle these inequalities and lays out our ambition to set change in motion.

The findings of the most recent National Paediatric Diabetes Audit, published June 2021 and which we reported on, paint a startling picture of the impact of health inequalities on children and young people with type 1 diabetes in England and Wales.  

The report reveals a six-year trend of poorer health outcomes and widening inequalities in access to diabetes technologies. It also showed that these impacts are felt most keenly by children and young people from ethnic minority and socially deprived communities.  

Access to diabetes tech

It shows that Black children and young people are the most likely to have higher than average HbA1c, but the least likely to be using diabetes technologies such as pumps or Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) – technologies that have been shown to improve diabetes management and quality of life. Children with Mixed ethnic background and Asian children also fare more poorly than White children on both these measures.  

Sadly these findings are unsurprising, and the report merely confirms that much work is needed to close the health inequalities gap, and provide both equity and equality in diabetes care across the UK. But it doesn’t answer the challenging question of what is causing the long-standing inequalities, or what can be done to eliminate them.  

At Diabetes UK, we feel strongly that this is a fight to be fought on several fronts.  

  • First – we need action from government, now, to bring an end to the postcode lottery that causes unequal access to diabetes technology depending on where a person lives, their level of deprivation and their ethnicity. 
  • Second – we need commitment from government and funders to support the research needed to understand why these groups face such stark and widening inequalities, in order to help address and solve the problem for future generations. 

Diabetes UK is already working hard to answer these big questions. We’re working with leading diabetes researchers through our Diabetes Research Steering Groups, and in partnership with JDRF, to understand the barriers to equal access to diabetes technologies. In the longer term this work will help identify targeted ways to address the broader issue widening health inequalities. 

These health inequalities continue to impact most harshly on those with the greatest need of support. It cannot stand that children and young people with type 1 diabetes experience such disparity in their care. And it cannot stand that people with diabetes should experience care differently because of where they live, their ethnicity, or their level of deprivation. 

We believe that immediate financial intervention from government, alongside broader investment and commitment from government and funders, will together pave the way towards bringing these health inequalities to their long-overdue end.   

Children and young people with type 1 diabetes deserve the best possible start in life. We know that living with diabetes is relentless. And this report sadly confirms that not everyone’s experience of diabetes care and services is equal. But we know that – with the right care and support, the right education, and the right tools – people with diabetes can thrive, and live long, healthy lives.  

We’ll continue to challenge government, on your behalf and by your side, to make sure that every child, young person and adult with diabetes has the tools and support they need, today. 

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