Dr Gabriela da Silva Xavier and Dr Caroline Gillett from the Institute of Metabolism & Systems Research (IMSR) took part in public engagement activities at a festival event organised by the Birmingham Settlement Nature & Wellbeing Centre and a number of arts organisations. This event was hosted for refugee and migrant families in living in Birmingham, but who have migrated from countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Approximately 50 families attended the outdoor festival held between 2-5pm on the 15th August 2023 – a beautiful sunny day!
The IMSR duo spoke to families about diabetes research and invited the children to take part in fun mini-experiments to test ‘blood glucose’ (actually water with red food colouring) using testing strips and to see the effects of the hormones insulin and glucagon on the blood sample. They also spoke to adults about their awareness and understanding of diabetes.
Here’s what we found:
Almost everyone we spoke to knew someone with diabetes. In fact many people mentioned family members living with type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, several people mentioned a reluctance of family members to take medicine to treat diabetes, suggesting more work needs to be done to develop new treatment options and/or to address people’s concerns and reservations with taking medication.
Those attending were also less aware of the risk differences between men and women, as well as the higher risks for some ethnicities. They were very interested in both these aspects, recognising that ‘hormones’ would likely be involved in sex differences risk differences in diabetes. They also asked about the role of genetics as well as diet during upbringing in ethnicities differences. In fact we got asked many interesting and thoughtful questions, including how stress might impact diabetes.
People largely did think poor sleep quality would impact health generally, though they were not aware of the links with diabetes specifically.
In conclusion, the afternoon offered an great opportunity to share new research that Gaby is hoping to begin soon in her IMSR lab to look at biological sex differences in type 2 diabetes and the influence of poor sleep too. It was great to speak to such a range of families, who each had their own stories and questions about diabetes to exchange with us. The team look forward to future events with under represented groups as there was clear interest in learning more about diabetes.