A/Prof Elif Ekinci

Improving diabetes care for Aboriginal people

Researchers at Austin Health are leading a $3.15 million study to see if wearable glucose monitoring devices are considered acceptable by Aboriginal communities, and whether their use leads to improved glucose management, compared to finger prick testing.

Flash glucose monitoring devices are small wearable devices that you can scan with a smart phone or other reader to measure your blood glucose level, without needing to prick your finger.

“Finger prick testing is more painful and inconvenient. Over time, flash monitoring gives better information about trends in blood glucose levels,” says the study’s lead investigator, Associate Professor Elif Ekinci, who is Head of Diabetes at Austin Health.

Elif first received $275,000 from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) for a pilot trial of 40 participants, followed by a whopping $3.15 million NHMRC grant in December for a large clinical trial. The trial is a collaboration between Austin Health, The University of Melbourne, Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative in Mooroopna and other sites in Queensland and NSW.

Elif presented on the project at last week’s Medical Grand Round on Aboriginal Health.

In a video produced by Flash Study project officer, Mariam Hachem, one participant says “one swipe of the machine and you can read it at any time of the day, whenever I needed to check my sugars… one of the hard things about pricking your fingers all the time is that the tip of my fingers were very sore… it [flash glucose monitoring] was so easy; I didn’t mind doing it, you know?”

Elif hopes that giving people with type 2 diabetes access to technology which can lead to better understanding and management of blood glucose will help them to avoid some of the complications from diabetes like heart attacks and kidney failure.

“We are working with Aboriginal communities as there is a major need to enhance diabetes management. Diabetes is a leading cause of Aboriginal admissions to hospital and leads to a range of complications,” Elif says.

“Aboriginal people often develop diabetes younger, when they’re at the most productive time of their lives. And because they have it for longer, they can develop more complications,” Elif says.

“Ultimately, this is about making technology accessible for the people who need it the most.”

Flash study research collaborators Tracey Hearn, Dr Audrey Eer and Mariam Hachem.