Leeds web platform gives families advice and support on diabetes

Maddie and Rob Julian.
Maddie and Rob Julian.

Maddie and Rob Julian, co-founders of the free-to-access diabetes platform DigiBete.org, write for Digital City.

DigiBete is a patient-led video web platform created in full partnership with Leeds Children’s Hospital. Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is growing significantly and an estimated 400,000 people are affected in the UK and more than 29,000 of them are children. The UK has one of the highest rates of T1D in the world.

We co-designed the DigiBete site with families and healthcare professionals to help support children, young people and families to self-manage their T1D better by extending the reach of clinical teams both locally and nationally online.

T1D can be incredibly challenging to manage as we found out first hand following the diagnosis of our son, then aged just 20 months.

We remember the care at Leeds Children’s Hospital to be world class, but it was still very traumatic and from that moment our lives changed forever as we came to terms with the fact that our son would need to inject insulin for the rest of his life.

Around 95 per cent of children diagnosed with diabetes have the autoimmune T1D and this is not linked with diet or lifestyle.

Diabetes care has traditionally been via regular NHS appointments with diabetes teams, with additional face-to-face and verbal contacts from specialist staff between visits.

Educational materials have been paper based and written in English. What we want to achieve with DigiBete is to raise awareness of T1D and address and remove some of the barriers to good diabetes care.

We are based in Bruntwood’s Platform building in Leeds, having won a free desk earlier this year, and it’s enabled us to move the business on at pace.

Daily, we have so many great conversations, introductions and training opportunities and the support and informal mentoring is crucial in our development and there is a real magic for young tech companies looking to connect, share and grow at Platform.

DigiBete increases support, awareness, education and training through the accessibility of online video resources.

It was launched in a beta format in 2016, and we relaunched it with significant improvements in February this year.

We are proud to be part of the Leeds digital scene. DigiBete is ‘made in Leeds’ and we owe much of our early success to the strong mentorship from digital health companies such as Leeds-based ‘We are mHabitat’, who are specialists in co-design, policy and strategy, and evaluation.

NHS England is now signposting the fully co-designed DigiBete.org platform as a go-to resource for children and young people.

This resource is now also being used globally in over 100 countries, which is amazing.

We are continuing to grow and expand in Platform and through Elmwood LaunchPod – a 12-week health-themed accelerator which we were selected for by global brand design consultancy Elmwood.

We were the first business to join their cohort and the programme began in September.

Our collaborations are not only helping us to grow, but also to make a difference to families such as ours.