Addressing Our Diabetes Problem

Does the thought of having to inject insulin into your body attract you? Does the thought of having to amputate your lower extremities appeal to you?

Diabetes does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender or sex, but rather, it affects all individuals. As the Center for Disease Control points out, the number of Americans with diabetes has more than tripled in the past few years, from 5.6 million to 17.4 million. The thought of our younger population developing a chronic disease rarely crosses our mind, until we fully understand the present situation within our society.
Diabetes is a current public health problem that must be addressed proactively through various educational programs for both parents and children aimed at halting the increasing incidence of diabetes. The usage of such programs will educate both parents and children as a key to the prevention and control of diabetes. These programs can teach people how to read nutritional labels, consequences of diabetes, what to eat, how to care for their health and much more.

According to the Center for Disease Control, diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose is above normal. The American Diabetes Association identifies two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and is a condition in which the body does not produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a condition that either prevents the body from producing enough insulin or involves the cells ignoring the insulin. Among the prominent negative effects that diabetes can have on an individual are heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, lower-extremity amputations and other health problems. Diabetes presents emotional and physical challenges to anyone diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Ultimately, people who are diagnosed must alter their lifestyles to avoid further health complications.

Our ignorance and inability to commit to healthy choices when available are at fault for the health condition of many affected people. At some point or another, everyone has been informed that our choices affect our own health. There is a need for educational programs that will not only provide individuals with advice, but will also administer a reality check among individuals to be reflective about what they are ultimately doing to themselves.

Is anyone really paying attention to the nutritional labels behind many of today’s food products? I sure do, because of the recurrent health problem that affects my family and because of my personal experience working alongside young diabetic children in Santa Ana who do not know what the nutritional label conveys or how to read it. Many of today’s food choices are at fault for the increasing incidence rates of individuals developing diabetes. According to the CDC, diabetes has increased among all age groups; though in general, people ages 65-74 years of age have the highest percentage. Many of today’s food products contain high amounts of sugar and artificial products that make every individual susceptible to developing diabetes. Educational programs will give the general consumer some basic knowledge of what they are consuming: sugar, sodium, calories, vitamins and so on. With such knowledge, an individual can undertake health changes to prevent being at risk for diabetes.

There is the need to be cautious and health conscious about how much sugar one is consuming. Decisions must ultimately be made by each individual to watch what he or she is eating, develop a healthy lifestyle and so forth. Careful thought has been placed on halting the incidents of diabetes, especially among the youth in our population. There are several programs in place that expose society to this public health problem: campaigns against diabetes, health fairs, recurrent messages via popular media to be healthy and many other venues.

There is a need for proactive educational programs for both parents and children to learn about diabetes in general. Within the health clinic where I am currently working, there is a Healthy Weight Program in place that educates both parents and children about the consequences and effects that diabetes can have on an individual. Both parents and children are educated: in one room there are parents being taught by a doctor, and in the other room there is a health educator teaching children the premises and basis of diabetes and how it can affect them.

The need to teach individuals a basic understanding of how to read nutritional labels, how to care for their health and what to eat can be taught and learned by the general population by taking advantage of opportunities present at local health clinics and internet sources, such as the American Diabetes Association and CDC website.

Edgar Becerra is a fourth-year public health major. He can be reached at ebecerra@uci.edu.