Karen Aroian, from the UCF College of Nursing, is part of a team of researchers that has been awarded a $1.5 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a crowdsourced social media portal for parents of very young children with Type 1 diabetes.

The interdisciplinary team includes two pediatric psychologists, Timothy Wysocki, Ph.D., and Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., from Nemours Children’s Health System in Jacksonville, Fla., a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Joyce Lee, from the University of Michigan Health System, and Aroian, a nurse scientist who will serve as a co-investigator and qualitative research methodologist on the study.

Type 1 diabetes is increasing in children ages six and younger. Parents are expected to manage their child’s diabetes successfully, yet are often uncertain how to do so. Care for these very young children is also especially challenging due to their behavior, emotional, cognitive and physiological features. Parent stress related to managing their child’s care is associated with poorer outcomes for children with Type 1 diabetes.

The social media portal, which will be developed by parents and clinicians, will provide a space for parents to receive timely information and support. The team hopes the portal will help parents with uncertainty and stress, and empower them to effectively manage their child’s care. If successful, the impact will extend beyond improving the child’s health to improving the family’s quality of life.

The project is funded by a grant for $1.589 million from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for a three-year period. For the first phase of the project, the team will develop the social media portal. The second phase will be a clinical trial to determine whether the portal improves outcomes and reduces parent stress.

“This team has a very exciting combination of people with different skill sets and backgrounds,” said Aroian, who is the Chatlos Foundation Endowed Chair at the UCF College of Nursing. “Dr. Wysocki is a successful researcher who has received more than $20 million in NIH funding over the course of his career and Dr. Lee has creatively used social media in clinical practice. My research interests with parenting and illness management provide substantive background to apply my methodological expertise to the project.”

Aroian, who is a highly regarded expert in qualitative research methods, has collaborated with Nemours for several years. Most recently, she mentored Dr. Pierce, a post-doctoral student of Dr. Wysocki, in qualitative research methods for a separate study.