Press Releases

Collaborative research project at the University of Minnesota and Children’s Minnesota, to improve diabetes knowledge among Minnesota-Somali children and their families

Minneapolis, Minnesota – September 9, 2015  – Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Children’s Minnesota are teaming up to develop new diabetes educational materials for Minnesota-Somali children and their families.

“We’ve noticed that the Somali children we’re treating have worse type 1 diabetes control than their non-Somali counterparts. We believe that a potential contributing factor stems from a lack of culturally relevant education materials,” said Muna Sunni, MBBCh, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology in the University of Minnesota Medical School and physician at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

Sunni and Jennifer Kyllo, M.D., an endocrinologist at Children’s Minnesota, will develop new educational materials to address this issue through funding provided by the first Child Health Collaborative Grant Award, a $200,000 two-year grant funded by the University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics, and Children’s Minnesota.

“For years Children’s Minnesota and the University of Minnesota have been helping kids control diabetes and live a healthier life,” said Rob Payne, M.D., medical director for research at Children’s Minnesota. “But, in working with our community, we learned that there was room for improvement. This generous grant will help reduce the life-altering consequences of childhood diabetes.”

The researchers will work with parents of Somali children with type 1 diabetes to identify cultural gaps and barriers affecting care, such as mealtime customs, religious practices and food preferences. Educational materials will be produced in Somali, including videos, which will reach a larger audience and bypass literacy barriers.

“We hope these videos and other culturally relevant materials will be implemented in Somali communities across the U.S.,” said Kyllo. “By creating a model for educating Somali and other minority groups, we could make a huge impact on a wide range of health issues.”

Child Health Collaborative Grant

The grant concept emerged from discussions between Payne and Mark R. Schleiss, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and leader of the Child Health Initiative for the CTSI. “We created this grant program with our partners within the University and at Children’s because we realized the tremendous potential that partnerships – like the one Drs. Sunni and Kyllo formed – have in tackling child health issues,” Schleiss said.

Through the Child Health Collaborative Grant, CTSI and its community research partners will continue to fund future research collaborations outside the University that address important, unmet child health issues in Minnesota. It will be awarded every two years.

Visionaries behind the grant program hope it will be yet another thread that unites child health specialists across the state in their shared mission of improving the quality of – and access to – care.

About the University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute
The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is part of the University of Minnesota’s Academic Health Center. It is supported through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, and is one of more than 60 such medical research institutions across the United States working together to improve the ways clinical and translational research is conducted. CTSI helps University health researchers and community collaborative research partners accelerate discoveries toward better health through services, funding, and expert resources and support for the entire spectrum of clinical and translational research.

About Children’s Minnesota

Children’s Minnesota is one of the largest pediatric health systems in the United States and the only health system in Minnesota to provide care exclusively to children, from before birth through young adulthood. An independent and not-for-profit system since 1924, Children’s serves kids throughout the Upper Midwest at two free-standing hospitals, 12 primary and specialty-care clinics and six rehabilitation sites. Children’s maintains its longstanding commitment to the community to improve children’s health by providing high-quality, family-centered pediatric services and advancing those efforts through research and education. This work is made possible in large part by generous philanthropic and volunteer support from individuals and organizations throughout the state and region. An award-winning health system, Children’s is regularly ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top children’s hospital. Please visit