According to researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the incidence of pediatric diabetes has increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. Compared with rates in previous years, the number of diagnoses among Black youth doubled during the first year of the pandemic, and the number of diagnoses among Hispanic youth almost doubled. This is especially bad news for ethnic minority families in economically challenged communities, which have historically had higher rates of diabetes.
ChesPenn pediatricians have especially noted a significant increase in prediabetes among their patients, mostly connected to the dramatic increase in obesity among children and youth since the beginning of the pandemic. Prediabetes is a warning families can heed that children are either becoming insulin resistant or are not producing enough insulin to metabolize the sugar in their system. Families who can catch this process early can avoid the need for life-long medication and the serious health consequences that come with diabetes.
Dr. Jenna Higgins, Pediatrician at The Center for Family Health at Eastside, shared that she and her colleagues focus on healthy life choices for children who are at risk of diabetes. According to Dr. Higgins, “We don’t focus on weight. But healthy eating habits and more activity. We try to suggest one or two healthy changes so families don’t get overwhelmed. Things like not eating in front of the TV or switching juice or soda for water can make a big difference and are relatively easy changes to make.”
Risk factors to be aware of include:
- Having a family member with type 2 diabetes.
- Being born to a mom with gestational diabetes(diabetes while pregnant).
- Being African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
- Having one or more conditions related to insulin resistance.
If your child is overweight and has any two of the risk factors listed above, talk to your doctor about getting his or her blood sugar tested.