NIDDK Director's Update Winter 2020

Health Information Updates

National Diabetes Month highlights taking care of youth with diabetes

diverse youth with text reading “taking care of youth who have diabetes”

Diabetes doesn’t just affect adults — it’s one of the most common chronic conditions affecting American youth. About 193,000 youth under 20 are affected, and rates of newly diagnosed cases are increasing.

“To lead a healthier life, young people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes need to learn how to manage their condition,” said NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers. “With support from their parents or other adult caregivers, youth with diabetes can gradually take on more responsibility in managing their diabetes.”

During National Diabetes Month in November, NIDDK shared tips for taking care of youth who have diabetes. Parents or caregivers should help young people with diabetes develop a plan that covers how to:

  • Manage blood glucose levels. Youth with diabetes should take medicines as prescribed, at the right time, and at the right dose, even when they feel good.
  • Adopt healthy habits. A healthy eating plan should include enough calories for growth but avoid added sugar and fat. Being physically active — while checking blood glucose levels before, during, and after exercise — and getting enough sleep are also good habits.
  • Stay prepared for emergencies. A “go kit” should include at least a week’s worth of medical supplies and equipment, a three-day supply of food, emergency contact list, a medication list, and an allergy list. During the COVID-19 pandemic, supplies such as face coverings can be included.
  • Monitor for diabetes complications. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce risk for heart disease, vision loss, nerve damage, and other related health problems.
  • Seek mental health support. Youth with diabetes can benefit from connecting with peers who also have diabetes. This can help reduce stress and anxiety and boost motivation to stick to a plan.

The NIDDK’s National Diabetes Month 2020 Toolkit features resources for health care professionals and the public to help raise awareness that youth who have diabetes need support from their parents, caregivers, and their health care team. For more information on managing diabetes, visit the NIDDK website.

NIDDK Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog examines social determinants of health

digital illustration of diverse people In a series of four blog articles and videos, NIDDK’s Diabetes Discoveries and Practice Blog discusses social determinants of health and diabetes with thought leaders from the diabetes community.

Social determinants of health – such as subpar housing, food insecurity, and socioeconomic status – are a primary contributor to health disparities, including risk for developing diabetes and diabetes complications.

The four contributors and topics covered in the blogs include:

  • Dr. Felicia Hill-Briggs from the Johns Hopkins University shared how key social determinants may affect interactions between people with diabetes and health care professionals. Hill-Briggs said that the social determinants framework can help the healthcare community move away from a focus on blaming individuals for their health status.
  • Dr. Matthew W. Kreuter at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis discussed how health care professionals can help address patients’ individual social needs so that they can focus more on their health, such as helping patients secure housing and food assistance.
  • Dr. A. Susana Ramírez of the University of California, Merced, discussed the need for health care professionals to understand communication inequalities in health care settings and how to address these inequalities by better understanding the environment in which patients live and their cultural background, especially for health information that relates to diabetes prevention and management.
  • Dr. Earle C. Chambers explained how the communities where people live strongly influence their ability to manage diabetes-related risk. He shares actions that health care systems and individual health care professionals can take to help patients access the resources they need to manage their health.

Read more in the Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog Social Determinants of Health Series.

Editors’ note: Research from Dr. Felicia Hill-Briggs is also highlighted in our Research Updates section.

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