Doctors' innovative diabetes comic wins top national award

DiabetesT1 comic front cover

A comic book created by diabetes experts in Southampton and Portsmouth to help young patients' understanding of the condition has been recognised nationally for its success.

Based on the title of hit Marvel series Wolverine: Origins, the comic, Type 1: Origins, features the story of a young man, Gary, who comes to terms with his diagnosis and his “special powers” of shock, surprise, acceptance and understanding of how he will cope.

The innovation, which is the first diabetes-inspired comic and has been downloaded for free almost 6,000 times since its launch in October 2016, was named winner of the 'Diabetes Collaboration Initiative of the Year – Children, Young People and Emerging Adults' category at the Quality in Care (QiC) awards.

It was developed by Dr Mayank Patel, of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, and Dr Partha Kar, of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, in collaboration with patients and with the support of publishing company Revolve Comics.

Type 1: Origins has been backed by all UK diabetes charities and has been animated by Digibete UK, while funding has been secured to develop a comic sequel.

Type 1 diabetes, which usually develops before the age of 40 and affects around 400,000 people in the UK, occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin to regulate the level of sugar in the blood, known as blood glucose.

Too much glucose can lead to organ damage and, as there is currently no cure, patients are required to take insulin on a daily basis and make healthy lifestyle choices such as reducing sugar in their diets and not smoking.

“The idea was always for this comic book to put some of the challenges of living with type 1 diabetes out into the public domain in a way that has not been done before and I think it has achieved that,” said Dr Kar, who is based at the Queen Alexandra Hospital and is also associate national clinical director for diabetes for NHS England.

Despite accounting for around only 10% of the total number of people with the condition, type 1 diabetes is often confused with type 2, which is linked to obesity and more common in older people.

Dr Patel, who is based at Southampton General Hospital, said: “The hope was that the comic would provide another means of spreading the type 1 diabetes message through art and for the story to inform and educate anyone who reads it and the feedback we've received has been fantastic.

“We have also found for those readers who are newly-diagnosed, they feel more empowered to look after themselves if not already and understand it is possible to live a long, healthy life with type 1 diabetes.”

The QiC judging panel called the comic "a breath of fresh air" and added: "It is easily accessed and easy to use, being cost neutral. Very creative and innovative, covering new ways of presenting information making it very appealing to all ages."

Type 1: Origins is available at www.revolvecomics.com.

Posted on Friday 13 October 2017