Pharmacy Insights

JUNE 20, 2011
Laura Enderle, Associate Editor

Patients Take to YouTube to Talk Diabetes
Patients with diabetes are rallying behind “You Can Do This,” a movement that asks everyone whose lives have been affected by the disease to tell their stories on YouTube. For pharmacists who serve this growing community, the homespun videos offer a glimpse of the daily struggles that come with managing the disease. 

The project’s aim is to “provide validation, hope, and encouragement through honest talk for those who struggle with the disease.” Participants are encouraged to share details about both the practical and emotional challenges of living with diabetes, from their fears upon being diagnosed to where they store their arsenal of meters, test strips, glucose tabs, and other diabetes gear.

The idea for the project came from blogger and type 1 diabetes patient Kim Vlasnik, who saw a commercial for Google Chrome that featured clips from It Gets Better, a YouTube-driven anti-bullying campaign that went viral with its hopeful message for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Inspired by the positive impact of that discussion, she decided to apply the same principle to diabetes.

In a post on her blog, Texting My Pancreas, Vlasnik wondered, “what if we, as a community [of diabetes advocates] let other people with diabetes know that it can get better, so to speak? What if we put voices; faces to those words?” She received an outpouring of support from others online in response, and the project launched just over a month later, on June 15, 2011.

Introducing the campaign, Vlasnik explained that “living with diabetes is hard, no matter what type or for how long you’ve had it. We often feel isolated or scared of what the future holds for us, and we become frustrated with all that is expected of us.” She hopes the videos will create a well of inspiration and encouragement that patients can turn to when the responsibilities of diabetes feel overwhelming.

“Everyone with diabetes struggles at one time or another,” Vlasnik wrote. “Validation and community have the ability to lighten the emotional load that diabetes can place on us.”

To Rebuild Trust in Vaccines, Educate Parents 
Parents are most likely to learn about the importance of immunizations at the pediatrician’s office, but the information they receive isn’t always enough to cut through the noise that surrounds childhood vaccines, a new study reports. 

In their survey of 376 households, government researchers found that although nearly all US children are getting regularly scheduled immunizations for childhood diseases, parents are still not confident in the safety or necessity of many vaccines. In addition, 1 in 3 parents say they aren’t satisfied with the education pediatricians provide on the topic. 

Their uncertainty offers a teaching opportunity for pharmacists, who can address lingering questions that lead study author Allison Kennedy, MPH, says are common among parents of young children. Doing so is critical to the continued success of the US national vaccination program, Kennedy and coauthors write in “Confidence about Vaccines in the United States: Understanding Parents’ Perceptions,” a report in the June 2011 issue of Health Affairs. 

“The good news is that almost all parents are getting their children vaccinated,” explained Kennedy, who is an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Immunization Services Division. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean all parents have a high level of confidence in those vaccines. These findings point us toward what we need to focus on to better answer questions and concerns parents have about why immunization is important.” 

Among parents’ chief worries are that children suffer undue physical pain from shots, receive too many shots in one visit, get too many vaccines before they reach the age of 2, or are exposed to unsafe ingredients in vaccines. In some cases, parents questioned whether the vaccines had been tested enough. Other anxieties stemmed from a speculated link between vaccines and chronic diseases or developmental disorders, such as autism. 

Parents who said they did not plan to follow the CDC’s recommendations for childhood vaccinations were more likely to report having serious concerns about vaccine safety, especially with regard to autism. Kennedy emphasized that “there is no credible evidence that vaccines are associated with learning disabilities, including autism,” and that parental education must focus on providing thorough explanations that directly target pervasive myths. 


Pharmacists’ Toolkit: Educating Parents about Vaccines 
By understanding the source of beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about the safety of vaccines, pharmacists can be a vital resource to parents who may feel left in the dark by their children’s health care providers. The following CDC resources can be used to jump-start conversations between pharmacists and parents: 
Vaccines & Immunizations 
CDC’s hub for vaccine education includes resources to educate patients and providers about the importance of immunization at every age. 
Parent-Friendly Guides to Immunization Schedules 
CDC offers guides to 2011 immunization recommendations for children of all ages in a clear, parent-friendly format.
Vaccine Safety: Addressing Common Concerns 
Pharmacists can consult this guide for quick, research-backed answers to common questions and misconceptions about the safety of vaccines. 
Resources for Vaccine Conversations with Parents 
This library houses information to address questions about the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, vaccines for children younger than 2 years, and other critical vaccine-related topics. 
Adolescent Vaccination: Call to Action 
Vaccines recommended for adolescents are underused, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, which created this booklet to help providers share the facts about vaccinations for this age group. 
A project of the Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases organization, is an interactive site that encourages teenagers and young adults to stay up to date with their immunizations. 


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