Podcast: New online tool helps young people better manage Crohn's disease

Aston University's Dr. Cassie Screti joined the latest Aston Originals Health Matters podcast recorded for World Inflammatory Bowel Disease Day to discuss a new online tool to help young people better manage Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Crohn's disease affects 10m people worldwide, and in the UK alone, 25,000 people receive a new diagnosis of Crohn's disease annually. Crohn's is one of the two major types of IBD, the other being ulcerative colitis.

World Inflammatory Bowel Disease takes place on 19 May every year to unite people worldwide with IBD, raise awareness and urge governments and healthcare professionals to take action.

Crohn's disease most commonly causes inflammation of the intestinal tract, including pain, bloating and diarrhea, but can also cause joint pain, eye inflammation and fatigue. Symptoms are often more severe in young people.

During her PhD research in the School of Psychology, Dr Screti discovered that there is very little support available to help young people manage their illness. Treatment plans are varied and complex and sticking to a medication regime whilst fitting in normal life, like sport, school and social activities, can be very difficult.

Dr Screti set about developing an online support tool to support and encourage young people, in a project funded by charity Crohn's and Colitis UK.

ASSIST-IBD was developed with young people from the start, to ensure useability, usefulness and acceptability. Dr Screti and the team used a variety of creative methods to develop the tool with the young people and get them thinking in new ways, including Lego building blocks and plasticine. The teens came up with lots of new ideas.

The way ASSIST-IBD works is that it allows young people to tailor the program to meet the needs of their treatment plan and by providing them with a plethora of support, whether that be written support, such as information or some fun quizzes to take part in, but also audio and visual support, such as short videos written and created by teens with IBD, some really great podcasts written and recorded by teens with IBD and also some soundbites with young adults who live with IBD. Young people are given so much support in each of the topics to help them set a goal to overcome a barrier that's stopping them from following their treatment plan."

Dr. Cassie Screti, Aston University

She is currently seeking more volunteers, aged 13 to 17, and their families to test ASSIST-IBD for 12 weeks and report back on what worked and what didn't, and if they have any ideas for improvements. Visit the Crohn's and Colitis UK webpage for more information about the project to develop the online tool, and potential volunteers should visit the Aston University webpage. The ASSIST-IBD team is active on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, X and YouTube.

Listen to the full podcast on the Aston Originals YouTube channel.

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