'Sugary Salvation' comes in at No.1 for message on diabetes

29th October 2010 at 01:00
Schools' competition increases awareness of blood condition and encourages careers in healthcare

It could have been a song about love and loss, about heartbreak and heartache - but writing a song about diabetes was going to be a tough challenge for any lyricist.

Lead singer with The Lost, Daniel King, 17, rose to the occasion with a little help from his classmates at Grantown Grammar in Moray.

"Sugary Salvation" proved a hit with the audience and judges in a schools' competition to increase awareness about type 2 diabetes.

It took joint first prize with Millburn Academy, whose campaign compared the lifestyles of two friends to show how a healthy diet can help to prevent the condition.

"It was hard. It's not a very rock `n' roll topic, but I think we made it work," says Daniel, from fifth year at Grantown Grammar.

The Highland Schools Diabetes Prevention Project (HI STOP) is a pilot programme run by diabetes management company LifeScan, which has more than 1,100 staff in Inverness and develops blood glucose monitors for diabetics worldwide. The project is run in collaboration with Highland Council, NHS Highland, UHI Millennium Institute and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) North of Scotland.

HI STOP is one of several Bridge to Employment programmes run globally by parent company Johnson amp; Johnson to encourage school leavers to continue education and consider careers in science, technology and healthcare.

Project manager Alastair McDonald has worked with the six Bridge to Employment schools in the area - Grantown Grammar and Alness, Invergordon, Millburn, Inverness Royal and Fortrose academies - alongside arts professionals who advised on video, photography and music. "The idea was to create powerful messages about type 2 diabetes and the fact that there is an explosion of type 2 diabetes in young people," he says.

There was a party atmosphere at the HI STOP event at Culloden Academy, outside Inverness, where pupils showcased their films and photographs, adverts and music to their families.

The idea to enlist young people to develop this health education programme came from Sandra MacRury, consultant diabetologist at Raigmore Hospital and professor of clinical diabetes at UHI Millennium Institute.

She told the audience: "The reason we are really concerned about diabetes is because of these effects it has on your health. It's not, `You get diabetes, your sugar's up a bit, you might need some tablets'.

"It's because it affects your life: it gives you complications with your eyes, kidneys and feet; it reduces your life expectancy; it causes lots of vascular problems. So it is important to know that there is something we can do about diabetes."

Later, the students were introduced to their mentors, professionals from a range of organisations who take part in the STEM ambassador programme run by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

LifeScan won the Most Dedicated Company Award in Scotland for its commitment to the STEM ambassadors venture in this year's STEMNET Awards and went on to win the UK award.

Bridge to Employment is a four-year project, driven forward in Inverness by Lorraine Dick, Life-Scan's community relations specialist. Teachers from the six schools involved did work placements at the company's headquarters with detailed briefings.

Last year, 70 pupils took part in a range of science projects, were supported with revision and did work placements at LifeScan. Some pupils and teachers also travelled to Washington DC to meet other Bridge to Employment schools from across the globe.

This year (the final year), 35 youngsters applied to take part. "The essence of it is to let them understand what healthcare careers are available to them and how they can link what they are learning in the classroom with what they would maybe think about in industry. This is contextualising their learning," says Ms Dick.

The idea is that the pupils who have carried out their performance and their work tonight will pass that message on to their peers within schools, says Moira Forsyth, lead officer for More Choices, More Chances with Highland Council.

There is also a toolkit, which has been developed by Dr Fiona Skinner from UHI to outline how to create a project like this. Schools can pick that off the shelf and see what they need to do.

Ms Forsyth comments: "They can build it into health and well-being within Curriculum for Excellence, or they could build it into biology lessons. There are a number of ways it could become part of the curriculum."

Teachers who have taken part in the whole Bridge to Employment project are highly supportive. Keith Redwood, principal teacher for pupil support at Alness Academy, says: "I've been teaching for 32 years and this is one of the most exciting projects I have been involved in. It's absolutely fantastic."

Rose Agus, 16, from Alness Academy, has decided to become a dentist as a result of taking part. "There have been loads of activities - looking round LifeScan and seeing how it works was just really interesting. I want to be a dentist. I didn't want to do it at first, but this has got me really interested," she says.

David Wells, one of the prize-winning team from Millburn Academy in Inverness, is in fifth year and wants to become a psychiatrist: "What LifeScan has done for me," he says, "is open my eyes to all the careers available in medicine."


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