Effective strategies that aim towards reducing the occurrence of debilitating diseases such, as diabetes, are of the utmost importance in today’s society. With the number of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes each year rapidly growing at an unprecedented rate of 0.93% in 1958 to 7.40% in 2015, it is clear that change must be implemented (Sederstrom, 2017). Knowing which foods can be potentially toxic to our bodies and which foods are harmful can be the key to healthy eating choices and lifestyle habits. Society needs education on the matter and for that reason, a greater emphasis on education should be practiced to assist in preventing the health issue. With educational methods held on a higher tier, the likelihood that the onset of diabetes would greatly be diminished or even depleted, and the costly treatment of the disease avoided, period.
According to the American Diabetes Association (2017), there are 1.5 million new diagnoses of diabetes each year (ADA, 2017). In 2015, 30.3 million Americans (9.4% of the population) had diabetes, and approximately 1.25 million American children and adults had type 1 diabetes, previously known as adolescent diabetes due to its prevalence in children (ADA, 2017). In 2011-2012, the annual incidence of diagnosed diabetes in youth was estimated at 17,900 with type 1 diabetes and 5,300 with type 2 diabetes (ADA, 2017). About 193,000 Americans under the age of 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, which is approximately 0.24% of that population (ADA, 2017). This increase in diabetes also means an increase in overall direct medical costs, reduced productivity, and an increase in indirect medical costs (ADA, 2017). If the prevention of diabetes targeted children/youth of our country, then costs may plateau or decrease as fewer people/children are diagnosed with diabetes. A diabetes prevention education program is needed in order to increase awareness that diabetes can be (for the most part) prevented through diet and exercise. This education program would be provided/funded privately (not via school/school district) and would be a series of presentations, lectures, cooking demos, active physical activity classes in order to provide a well-rounded understanding of the disease, and offer tips and advice on how to prevent children from the diagnosis of this disease. The goal would be that these children would take this knowledge home and share with the family, as well as grow to become adults that are health/nutrition aware to increase the chances of continued preventions.
An educational program for diabetes prevention in school children will be a series of presentations to raise awareness of type II diabetes and ways to prevent or delay it with diet and exercise. Children will learn about type II diabetes and their risk factors, which include obesity, not exercising, and poor eating habits. The presentations will include lectures, healthy snack ideas, and physical activity classes with the goal of educating children to eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy lifestyle as a means of preventing type II diabetes.
Eating healthy will be stressed with the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables. They will learn to Create Your Plate by a visualization showing how to fill half a dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables, the other half divided into half with a lean protein, and the remaining quarter with carbohydrates or starches, such as brown rice or whole grain pasta (“Create Your Plate: American Diabetes Association®,” n.d.). Meals should include water and sugar-sweetened drinks including, sodas, juices, sports drinks, and coffee drinks should be limited, which add calories with little or no nutritional value. Children should limit their intake of fast food should and learn to make healthier choices at restaurants (“Preventing Type 2 in Children: American Diabetes Association®,” n.d.). A demonstration on how to make healthy snacks will include fruit and cheese kabobs, vegetable hummus cups, and ham and cheese pretzel bites.
To be more active, children should limit their screen time of computers, video games, and television to no more than two hours a day. Aerobic exercise can be a part of normal daily activities, including brisk walking, running, bike riding, swimming, and school team sports. Strength training, such as hand weights, pull-ups, and push-ups should be added to their routine three or four times a week. Recreational sports such as hiking, walking, sports, and dancing can relieve stress and are activities that can be done with friends or family (Diabetes Association, n.d.). Programs with the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club should be promoted as a means of involving students in physical exercise or team sports.
In closing, the presentation will encourage school kids to keep a log or journal of their daily activities and diet. Including their friends and family members are a way to teach others and stay motivated.
The benefits of a good education in diabetes and its prevention are fundamental, but unfortunately one of the most deficient branches of medicine is prevention and not only in diabetes but in all preventable diseases, that can prevent its appearance. Although diabetes has a hereditary genetic character, general habits, lifestyle, nutrition, habitat, economy, politics, health system, and many other factors directly affect the development and exponential growth of patients with diabetes, adding that Type 1 diabetes remains one of the most important health problems in childhood.
Diabetes education and prevention, as well as good eating habits, should be instilled in children from an early age, and what better than in schools where they spend most of the day. The statistics are not positive, the rates of newly diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing in youth population in the United States. Approximately 208,000 people younger than 20 years are living with diagnosed diabetes (National Institutes of Health – NIH 2017). After the calculation of annual incidence rates between 2002–2012 period, 11,245 youths with type 1 diabetes between 0 to 19 years old, and 2846 with type 2 diabetes between 10 to 19 years old were identified. Diabetes type 1 diabetes increased by 1.4% annually, and this pattern repeats exponentially year after year (The New England Journal of Medicine – NEJM 2017).
There is a factor that we do not take into account, and although education in this subject is essential in schools, those who have the greatest responsibility for education and prevention are the parents. They may lack the necessary information or may not have the time to provide a healthy lifestyle for their children, including a healthy diet and physical activities, and resort to fast food because the current pace of life is so demanding. If we add to these factors that there is no law or official requirement in which schools must have diabetes education and prevention programs and it is not considered essential, as the problem worsens, in fact, many schools consider that treating only the obesity issue that undoubtedly goes hand in hand with the development of diabetes is enough.
Since 2012 there are over 500 community-based groups, health care providers, employers, and health plans that offer national diabetes prevention programs covering every state in the country (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s – CDC 2015), but nothing focuses education or prevention specifically in the schools. There is a great need for well-structured and easy-to-understand programs that include nutritional information that families can implement, as well as easy access to physical activities. More campaigns are also needed in schools for health plans that include preventive screenings covered by medical insurance or at low costs that parents can afford, to improve diabetes rates at school age.
Supports and Costs
Diabetes is considered a disability by federal laws Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Americans Disability Act. These laws support and implement programs and give grants to public and religious schools to employ educated staff to help diabetic students with their needs. Any public school receiving federal funds must accommodate special needs for students with diabetes (ADA, 2016). Some sources include free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs, special education grants, and professional development programs for teachers and staff. Support needs can come from the community and parents of diabetic students. Financial costs can be shared and contributed by the local community, grocery stores, and fitness centers. Boys and Girls Club supports young students not only in academics but also encourages participation in sports and physical exercise (Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 2018). A child can be mentored in physical sports with a donation of nineteen dollars a month to the Boys and Girls Club.
Diabetes mellitus has made an impact not only on adults but also on young teens and children. In many cases, diabetes can be prevented by educating children from an early age. If prevention education is initiated at school, children are likely to bring this information home and influence the entire household. This community outreach program will have a higher chance of reaching and affecting more people because, for every child attending school, this setting can be used to streamline a series of informative lectures, presentations, and demonstrations. The benefits of education in preventing diabetes and the projected outcomes are greater than having young children with diabetes. Preventing diabetes mellitus comes with a price, not only in providing education through schools, but by parents being involved with their children in changing eating habits and participating more in physical activities. The cost of prevention will pay back very quickly and eventually turn into an overall decrease in medical costs across our nation.