Diabetes in Youth: Moving Toward Wellness

“Type 2 diabetes used to be considered an ‘adult disease,’” said Dr. Jane Chiang, senior vice president of Medical Affairs at the American Diabetes Association (ADA). “But that’s no longer the case. Each year, there are 5,000 new cases of Type 2 diabetes in youth.”

In 2009, it was estimated that more than 20,000 individuals age 20 and younger were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (T2D). Experts believe the increased prevalence of T2D in youth is primarily due to the dramatic increase in childhood obesity over the last three decades.

November is National Diabetes Month. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, mother, and grandmother, I’ve been thinking about the thousands of children and teens that are diagnosed with T2D, and what we can do to help them. Here are a few tips that dietitians and other health professionals can use as we work with parents and youth:

  • It’s important to start diabetes management early: As those who are health professionals know, in order to have the best outcomes, it’s important for the health care team to start management of diabetes as soon as it is diagnosed.
  • Work collaboratively with a diverse health care team to encourage lifestyle modifications: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in collaboration with other medical and nutrition organizations, developed clinical practice guidelines to provide evidence-based recommendations on managing T2D in 10- to 18-year-olds. The recommendations suggest integrating lifestyle modifications (i.e., diet and exercise) in concert with medication rather than as an isolated treatment approach. Teach kids and teens with T2D about proper nutrition and exercise using educational tools, like the ADA’s Be Healthy Today, Be Healthy for Life
  • Get involved: You can help connect youth with diabetes to wellness programs in their school, such as Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), that uses adult and peer support to empower kids to eat nutritious foods, and get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. (The ADA encourages kids diagnosed with T2D to start physical activity slowly and work up to 60 minutes per day.) And now the FUTP 60 program is available en Español providing even more families with Spanish-language resources and materials to help them get involved in the program

During National Diabetes Month, and throughout the year, there’s much we can do to help all children make better choices. Let’s stay connected on health and wellness topics through The Dairy Report and @DairyMSRD.