Excitement is mounting in and around Birmingham with the Commonwealth Games just a few days away. This year’s Games (28 July to 8 August) will bring together competitors from 72 nations across the globe. One factor that is often not considered as we enjoy the games is the support offered to athletes, back-up teams and spectators who have diabetes.
Diabetes support during the Commonwealth Games
At times of excitement and in hot weather there is higher risk of reduction in someone’s level of blood glucose (hypoglycaemia/hypo) with the likelihood that an affected individual is unable to treat themselves. Immediate, accessible response by knowledgeable employees and volunteers can be lifesaving.
However, in planning for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, it became apparent that there was no provision for training health and safety-first aiders, rapid response staff or volunteers in how to recognise and safely treat hypoglycaemia.
The hypo risk is significantly increased through heat and excitement, such as taking part in or indeed watching the events. As the body’s blood vessels widen through effort or excitement, glucose is used more quickly. This in turn increases the effects of insulin and insulin lowering treatments, triggering a potential hypo. Spectators whose usual food or fluid intake is disrupted may also be affected.
Training video and hypo-boxes
So, led by the determined efforts of Anne Phillips, professor of advancing diabetes care at Birmingham City University, a ten-minute training video and transcript on how to detect and deal with someone experiencing a hypo has been created. This is currently being used to educate all workers and volunteers as they get ready to meet athletes, their training teams and spectators.
Thanks to the enthusiastic participation of students at Birmingham City University and volunteers worldwide, the video and transcripts are available in 27 different languages, including British Sign language, improving accessibility, inclusivity and safety for everyone attending the games.
Supplementing the videos and transcripts are the ‘hypo-boxes’ containing on-the-spot emergency treatment for hypoglycaemia. Through the endeavours of Donna Fraser, four-times Olympian and now head of inclusivity and equality at the games, these charity-funded hypo-boxes will be available at every venue. Each hypo-box contains glucose in tablet or gel form and a substance which can be rubbed into the side of the mouth for absorption if the affected person is unable to swallow safely.
Diabetes and hypoglycaemia worldwide
Currently, there are 537 million adults worldwide living with diabetes. Amongst the nations represented at the games many have an increased prevalence of diabetes. For example, India, one country competing, has the second highest incidence of diabetes within the population, second only to China.
In the UK alone, nearly 5 million adults and nearly 30,000 children between 0 and 18 years are affected. Type 1 diabetes is insulin dependent; type 2 is treated by oral and injectable therapies and sometimes by insulin. People of all ages who are treated with insulin and some types of oral medication can be affected by hypoglycaemia. This low blood sugar event can occur very quickly and if the person affected is unable to treat themselves, hypoglycaemia can lead to a possible fit and to the person becoming unsafe and at risk of injury.
Community award for this lifesaving project
This potentially lifesaving project has been recognised with a Midlands community innovation award in the health category. Community awards are a new initiative shared by the NHS Trusts, universities and local authorities across the Midlandsand application is open to anyone or organisation.
Future developments include distribution of the materials to British Rail, the postal service and Amazon and other companies free of charge. Fraser is also in discussions regarding provision for the GB Olympic team, but these discussions will not be concluded until after the Commonwealth Games. It is planned to include sports as varied as football, rugby, ice-skating, netball, hockey and bowling by the autumn.
So, it is work in action to share the project far and wide. Hopefully, this initiative will significantly raise public awareness of low blood sugar events and how to deal with them.
We need your help!
The press in our country is dominated by billionaire-owned media, many offshore and avoiding paying tax. We are a citizen journalism publication but still have significant costs.
If you believe in what we do, please consider subscribing to the Bylines Gazette from as little as £2 a month 🙏
More information is available via the Ideal Diabetes website.