November is National Diabetes Awareness Month
Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office
Diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, is a chronic disease characterized by persistent high blood sugar levels. As of 1999, approximately 16 million Americans-5.9 percent of the total population-had been diagnosed with diabetes, and that number is increasing rapidly. Ethnic minorities have a higher prevalence of diabetes than whites, and some minorities have higher rates of diabetes-related complications and death.1 More specifically, American Indians and Alaska Natives carry a much higher burden of diabetes than the Caucasian population.
As stated in the "Facts At-A-Glance" from DHHS/IHS DDTP in June 2008 there are:
- 3.3 million - Number of American Indians and Alaska Natives in 2007(according to the U.S. census)
- 561 - Number of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes
DIABETES IN AMERICAN INDIANS AND ALASKA NATIVES
16.3% - Percent of American Indian and Alaska Native adults who have diagnosed diabetes (compared with 8.7% of non-Hispanic whites)
- 1,758 -Number of American Indian and Alaska Native youth under the age of 19 who have diagnosed diabetes (2005)
- 68% - Percent increase in diabetes from 1994 to 2004 in American Indian and Alaska Native youth aged 15-19 yrs
- 3 times higher - Death rate due to diabetes for American Indians and Alaska Natives compared with the general U.S. population (2004)
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PREVENT TYPE 2 DIABETES IN YOUTH?
Within a decade, the rate of type 2 diabetes in children is expected to exceed the rate of type 1 diabetes for all ethnic and racial groups. For children born in the United States in 2000, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives is 30% for boys and 40% for girls, if obesity rates stabilize. The lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes is even higher among some ethnic and minority groups--including American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Because youth with type 2 diabetes develop the disease at such an early age, they will experience more years of disease burden and a higher probability of developing serious type 2 diabetes-related complications. These complications will threaten life expectancy, reduce quality of life, and lower productivity during the prime years of their lives.
REDUCING THE BURDEN OF OBESITY
Why is this important?
The increasing rates of childhood obesity and overweight are the major reason for the growing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in youth. Being overweight is one of the strongest risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes.2
There are actions we can do as a Native community to reduce this impending risk of our young ones. First of all, learn all you can about this condition called diabetes and take a look around you and your family. Does anyone in your family already have diabetes? Does anyone look like they may be overweight? (Even an extra 20 pounds can put you at risk). Does anyone in your family drink sodas or drinks with sugar in them? Does anyone in your family sit for more than 2 hours a day watching TV, playing video games or computer use? Ask your nearest Indian Health clinic or Tribal Health organization for more information about this and learn some answers. Knowledge is power and with knowledge about the prevention of diabetes in our youth will help to establish a stronger and healthier community in the future.
December 2-4, 2008
San Diego, CA
This national conference is designed to enhance the skills and knowledge of people working with American Indian and Alaska Native community and school-based physical activity programs that aim to reduce the incidence and prevalence of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. The conference will focus on ways that health care providers and educators can initiate or improve physical activity outcome measurements that target American Indian and Alaska Native children.
1Diabetes Disparities Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities. November 2001. AHRQ Publication No. 02-P007. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
2Special Diabetes Program for Indians: Type 2 Diabetes and Youth: Acting Now for Future Generations, June 2008
Department of Health and Human Services/Indian Health Service/Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention