Professor Jane Speight, Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes at Deakin University, Geelong, has joined other world leaders in diabetes to help reduce the burden of hypoglycaemia.
The new Hypo-RESOLVE project brings together an international consortium that aims to provide an evidence-based classification of hypoglycaemia, its predictors and consequences.
The four-year, $42 million project involving researchers, clinicians, industry and people living with diabetes will increase understanding of the causes and impact of hypoglycaemia, and identify better solutions to prevent and manage it.
Professor Speight co-leads the psychology work stream of Hypo-RESOLVE with Professor Frans Pouwer from the University of Southern Denmark.
“Naturally, managing the everyday risk of hypoglycaemia can have a significant psychological burden on those living with diabetes,” Professor Speight says.
“Through this work, we will be conducting systematic reviews, new international qualitative studies and surveys, and a major new clinical study. We will be training the next generation of researchers focused on understanding and reducing the psychological burden of hypoglycaemia.”
Professor Speight says hypos could be impacting peoples’ ability to drive, travel alone, and look after children or grandchildren.
“Just one severe event can lead people to become fearful about having more, and it can severely restrict their independence and what they are able to do,” she said.
“It also affects how people manage their diabetes. They might decide to keep their blood glucose levels higher as a result, to avoid hypos, but that is not an advisable long-term strategy because high glucose levels can lead to other complications like kidney damage, amputation, and blindness.”
Professor Speight said she hoped the project would ensure that preventing hypoglycaemia, and minimising its impact on health and quality of life, would be taken more seriously in trials of new diabetes medications.
“At the moment, the average blood glucose level – HbA1c – is often considered the most important outcome in the majority of diabetes clinical trials. But reducing HbA1c is often achieved at the expense of an increase in hypoglycaemia,” she said.
“We’ve seen many impressive new treatments in the past 30 years, but unfortunately rates of hypoglycaemia have largely stayed the same. That’s partly because there’s not been a universally agreed definition of hypoglycaemia, or how it should be measured, and partly because the impact of hypoglycaemia has not been fully recognised.
“But we have to move the emphasis to addressing this issue because it’s having a real and serious impact on the lives of people with diabetes.”