The Foundation congratulates Summer Research Student Erin McKergow on her summer project work being accepted for publication in the journal Acta Diabetologica, which publishes experimental and clinical research on diabetes mellitus.

Erin’s scholarship was established using funds granted by the Kelliher Charitable Trust.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition where the body cannot produce enough insulin, the hormone which controls blood sugar (glucose) levels. Without insulin, glucose remains in the blood and long-term, the high levels cause damage to eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, heart and feet. The main aim of diabetes treatment is to keep glucose levels as close to normal as possible, reducing both the immediate risk from high or low glucose levels and long term damage.

Advances in insulin pump technology have led to an increase in pump use and some patients find pumps more convenient than insulin injections, allowing them to better control their blood glucose levels.

During her summer research project, Erin, under the supervision of Dr Lianne Parkin and Dr Ben Wheeler (at the University of Otago’s Department of Preventive & Social Medicine and Department of Medicine respectively) investigated the pattern of insulin pump use in New Zealand. PHARMAC has funded pumps since 2012 and Erin carried out a nationwide study to investigate the number of type 1 diabetics using these. She found there are marked demographic and regional differences in insulin pump use.

Significantly higher proportions of females, younger patients, New Zealand Europeans, and patients living in socio-economically advantaged regions used pumps in much larger numbers than Māori, Pacific, and Asian patients. The ethnic and socio-economic disparities Erin discovered are concerning with patients with lower use more likely to have poor blood glucose level control and be at greater risk of long-term complications of damage.

Erin’s research and upcoming publication will be vital in helping doctors involved in diabetes treatment understand the issues surrounding insulin pump use in New Zealand. This information is essential to help ensure that all patients have an equal opportunity to benefit from intensive diabetes management plans.