GN FOCUS HEALTHY LIVINGTackling early diabetesBy Catherine Rankin Harper, Feature WriterPublished: September 11, 2009, 23:14Diabetes management awareness among young patients and their families is vital tokeep the disease in check.With type 1 diabetes a common diagnosis in children, initiatives are being developed to ensureyoung patients and their families are aware of, and educated about, the disease in order to beable to live a normal life. Worryingly, type 2 diabetes — normally diagnosed in adults — is alsobeing diagnosed in children now, giving rise to questions about lifestyle and diet and creatingcause for concern among medical professionals.As type 1 diabetes is most often found in young patients, it is understandable that support forthem is becoming more developed. One avenue is a joint initiative between the EmiratesDiabetes Society (EDS) and the Johnson&Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, which hasresulted in the formation of the Juvenile Diabetes Education Centre (JDEC), aimed at educatingyoung diabetes patients and their families.Dr. Wim Boogaerts, Chairman of Johnson&Johnson Corporate Citizenship Trust, says it isparticularly difficult for children with type 1 diabetes to manage their condition independentlywithout the required knowledge and skills. "We believe that education on how to deal withdiabetes on a day-to-day basis, not only for these children but also for those around them,plays a key role in allowing them to develop healthy habits, prevent short- and long-termcomplications and provide them with a chance to fulfil their dreams without limitations," hesays. "The lack of diabetes management awareness among children, parents and schoolpersonnel, coupled with the fact that health care professionals are overwhelmed by the numberof patients at the clinics, lead the way for establishing such a centre."Awareness centresKhaled Fadhli, General Manager of the JDEC, says the centre has three objectives. "[They are]providing knowledge and skills to manage diabetes on a day-to-day basis at home and atschool; developing healthy habits, preventing complications and fulfilling dreams withoutlimitations; and building the professional capacities of future diabetes educators." ›Children are registered at the centre and given a starter kit comprising a glucometer — tomeasure blood glucose levels — and up-to-date education materials. Services at the JDECinclude both one-on-one and group counselling, lectures on subjects such as diet, exercise,
insulin therapy and prevention of complications and social activities."Patients and parents diabetes knowledge is assessed, based on which an immediate suitablediabetes education action plan is set by the diabetes educators," says Fadhli. "Then a detailedaction plan is discussed and set later on, [for] long-term goal education."Types of diabetesAlthough type 1 diabetes is the most commonly diagnosed in children, it seems cases of type 2are also on the rise, and — somewhat alarmingly — can be attributed to lifestyles in the region.Here, awareness and support are perhaps not so developed.According to Dr. Fiji Antony, chief dietician at NMC Specialty Hospital Dubai and a member ofthe BiteRite Advisory Panel (a panel focused on healthy nutrition), the World HealthOrganisation has identified lifestyle changes in childhood patterns — in particular, unhealthydiets and low exercise levels — as factors leading to an increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetesin children. "The availability of fast food and sugar-rich drinks, even in schools, gives childrenthe chance to enjoy these food items without knowing that this affects their health," he says.With the latest studies on this conducted in the UAE in 1999, experts in the field see a need fornew research. "In 1999, 24 per cent of the population had diabetes," says Dr. Abdulrazzak AlMadani, chairman of EDS and Director of Dubai Hospital. "In ten years many factors havechanged — the type of food, the amount of food, [the availability of] fast food — especially toyoung people — the amount of exercise and lack of activity. Playing outdoors happens less, aschildren are used to the PlayStation."High risk factorWhile Dr. Madani cannot say for sure if the situation is definitely worse now, he has hissuspicions. "We have to assume that is the case," he says. "In my opinion there is an enormousnumber of people living, and especially born in, the UAE who have a very high risk ofdeveloping type 2 diabetes."So what can be done to combat this? "The solutions are to try to target the young, to re-educate people about the illness and to let them know how serious it is," says Dr. Madani."There are lots of people who can help and its easily treatable, but you have to know that youhave it, otherwise it can have tragic results."Dr. Jim Mathew, specialist in internal medicine at Welcare Clinic, Qusais, offers some advice toparents. "Lifestyle intervention, such as weight reduction, healthy eating, regular exercise andsometimes using certain medications are the most powerful tools to help prevent diabetes inthe high-risk group," he says.