Officials from the VHA Health Foundation announced Monday a plan aimed at stemming rising diabetes rates in Hispanic and American Indian children. The initiative is designed to spread awareness about type 2 diabetes through schools with large Hispanic and American Indian populations. The plan will be administered through hospitals and community health centers belonging to the VHA, Inc. hospital network.
The plan targets 25 schools in 23 cities around the country with student and family diabetes awareness manuals, nutrition counseling, and physician referrals for children with diabetes risk factors. Planners hope to reach as many as 10,000 children and adolescents with the program, said Daniel P. Borque, the foundation’s president.
The education effort is being funded with a grant of approximately $250,000 from Novartis, AG, which sells nateglinide under the brand name Starlix.
Nearly 11% of Hispanics and 15% of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are now thought to have type 2 diabetes, versus a 6.2% national average, according to figures from the American Diabetes Association.
One recent study found a 68% increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in American Indian and Alaskan native adolescents between 1990 and 1998, said Michel Lincoln, the deputy director of the Indian Health Service at the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Forty years ago there were no diagnosed cases of diabetes in Indian country.
Rising diabetes rates during the last decade are blamed on inflationary rates of obesity, which now affects as much as a third of the US population. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson told reporters that he plans to host a meeting Tuesday with executives from the fast food industry in an effort to encourage them to add "healthier choices" to their menus.
"It’s going to be controversial, but it’s something we have to do in America," Thompson said.