To explore how to enhance services to support the self-care of children and young people (CYP) clinically considered ‘disengaged’ by diabetes services.
Two diabetes clinics in an ethnically diverse and socially disadvantaged urban area in the UK. Eligible participants were CYP living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes aged between 10 and 25 years who did not attend their last annual hospital appointment.
22 CYP (14 female and 8 male) aged between 10 and 19 years old took part. The sample was diverse in terms of ethnicity, age at diagnosis, family composition and presence of diabetes among other family members.
Data were analysed thematically.
Analysis of participant accounts confirmed the crucial importance of non-medicalised care in CYP diabetes care. A life plan was considered as important to participants as a health plan. Participants valued the holistic support provided by friends, family members and school teachers. However, they found structural barriers in their health and educational pathways as well as disparities in the quality of support at critical moments along the life course. They actively tried to maximise their well-being by balancing life priorities against diabetes priorities. Combined, these features could undermine participants engagement with health services where personal strategies were often held back or edited out of clinical appointments in fear of condemnation.
We demonstrate why diabetes health teams need to appreciate the conflicting pressures experienced by CYP and to coproduce more nuanced health plans for addressing their concerns regarding identity and risk taking behaviours in the context of their life-worlds. Exploring these issues and identifying ways to better support CYP to address them more proactively should reduce disengagement and set realistic health outcomes that make best use of medical resources.