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A tailored approach to paediatric education

Collaborative initiative to support the specific needs of young patients with type 1 diabetes

Medikidz, a medical information provider dedicated solely to the needs of children, is collaborating with pharmaceutical company Lilly and the registered charity Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to distribute a comic book explaining type 1 diabetes to young patients in the UK.  



Most children do not understand their medical conditions, associated investigations, procedures and treatments. Doctors are always searching for the best ways to engage young patients and extensive research has shown that education improves patient empowerment, which in turn improves treatment compliance. Given these insights, the lack of medical information sources appropriate for children is alarming and nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of type 1 diabetes. The current estimate of prevalence of type 1 diabetes in children in the UK is 1 per 700-1,000, with the peak for diagnosis occurring between the ages of 10 and 14 years. However, most educational resources for diabetes are focused on the adult type 2 population.

In view of this, Medikidz and Lilly recognised an opportunity to produce educational material specifically for children with type 1 diabetes in order to address the significant unmet need. Discussion with healthcare professionals (HCPs) revealed a need to segment the paediatric population further by age in order to best serve the educational requirements and varying levels of comprehension. Lilly already produced support materials for infants and teenagers, but a challenge remained in the 'junior' segment, where children up to the age of 13 were transitioning between different stages of development.  

Lilly worked with Medikidz to develop a dedicated resource for 'juniors' living with type 1 diabetes in the UK.  The resulting comic, What's up with Ella? Medikidz explain Type 1 Diabetes, was designed to be an innovative, effective and unique communication tool. The Medikidz are a gang of five larger-than-life superheroes, each specialising in a different part of the human body. The characters aim to be funny and relatable, entertaining junior patients while at the same time educating them about their condition. The Medikidz characters live on Mediland, which is a living, moving planet shaped just like the human body. In the comic, they teach young sufferer Ella about type 1 diabetes by taking her on a personal tour through Mediland, explaining normal anatomy, physiology, specific pathophysiology, clinical diagnosis, investigations and treatment options in type 1 diabetes. 

The comic was written by doctors, peer-reviewed by global key opinion leaders, illustrated by an award-winning team of graphic artists and conforms to the UK Department of Health Information Standard. As sole sponsor, Lilly UK reviewed content for medical accuracy, supported printing costs and drove awareness and distribution, all of which contributed to the credibility of the resource as an independently produced and non-promotional material. A review and subsequent endorsement by the JDRF added further weight to the reliability of the comic. The comic book format was chosen because it spans cultures, appeals across the target age range and the superheroes give a sense of empowerment which resonates with children, allowing immediate engagement with them.

The comic has been viewed as a resounding success. Launched internally at Lilly in February 2011, the Lilly Diabetes salesforce, which was the principal distribution channel for the comic, was instantly engaged and recognised how the comic could support it in its work with customers and children with type 1 diabetes. Externally, the initiative was launched at a Lilly-sponsored national paediatric meeting to an audience of 150 physicians and awareness was further expanded through a journal advertising campaign in Archives of Disease in Childhood, Paediatric Diabetes, Diabetes Digest and Nursing Children and Young People. The comic has also been promoted through Lilly's HCP and patient websites, the Medikidz website and at the annual Diabetes UK meeting, where it made a positive impact on customers because of its unique approach.

Demand for the comic has been high and the initiative has been so well received that, of the original copies printed, 40 per cent have been distributed already. An additional medical information pamphlet, 'Medikidz explain Insulin Pumps', has also been produced and Lilly licensed the characters to develop the 'Medikidz Monitor Diary', an additional resource to help patients record their blood glucose readings. Collectively, these resources have enabled Lilly Diabetes to differentiate itself in the type 1 diabetes market, by improving its service to paediatric diabetes teams and continuing to offer patients individual solutions.

The collaborative approach has ensured consistency and credibility in the development of materials for this patient age group and its success has led to an extension of the collaboration to other European Lilly affiliates, including France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, The Netherlands and Portugal, as well as in to other therapy areas such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and growth hormone deficiency. Based on the encouraging qualitative feedback, a quantitative evaluation is planned to determine exact usage metrics and return on investment, as well as identifying areas for further development and/or improvement of the resource. 

See What's up with Ella? Medikidz explain Type 1 Diabetes.

The Author

Dr Kim Chilman-Blair is the founder and CEO of Medikidz, director of the Medikidz Foundation and co-author of the Medikidz comics.

14th December 2011


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