“Having diabetes shouldn’t stop them”: Healthcare professionals’ perceptions of physical activity in children with Type 1 diabetes
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Background: Healthcare professionals (HCP) working with children who have Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) have an important role in advising about and supporting the control of blood glucose level in relation to physical activity. Regular physical activity has known benefits for children with T1DM, but children with chronic conditions may face barriers to participation. The perceptions of HCPs were explored in an effort to understand what influences physical activity in children with T1DM and to inform the practice of those working with children who have T1DM. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with 11 HCPs involved in the care of children with T1DM in the UK were conducted. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: The factors perceived to influence participation in physical activity are presented as five major themes and eleven sub-themes. Themes included the positive influence of social support, the child’s motivation to be active, the potential for formal organisations such as school and diabetes clinic to support physical activity, the challenges faced by those who have T1DM and the perceived barriers to HCPs fulfilling their role of promoting physical activity. Conclusions: Healthcare professionals recognised their role in helping children with T1DM and their parents to incorporate physical activity into diabetes management and everyday life, but perceived barriers to the successful fulfilment of this role. The findings highlight the potential for clinical and non-clinical supportive systems to be sensitive to these challenges and facilitate children’s regular participation in physical activity.