6 December 2006

South Africa: Today's Children to Bear Brunt of Diabetes Epidemic

World experts in diabetes today highlighted the prevalence of diabetes in children and urged authorities to take immediate action to prevent unnecessary death and disability.

The experts' recommendations were made at their 19th World Diabetes Congress in Cape Town, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

The IDF said the the current generation of children and adolescents will bear the future force of the growing type 2 diabetes epidemic.

Addressing delegates at the conference the chairperson of IDF's Consultative Section on Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes, Francine Kaufman said if the action is not taken to reverse current trends, by the time today's children reach their thirties and forties, more than 380 million people worldwide would be living with the disease.

"More than 200 children a day now develop diabetes. For many children from the developing world, the outlook is bleak," she said, adding that many children with diabetes died because they were diagnosed late or misdiagnosed.

"Many die because insulin is unavailable or in short supply. In Mozambique, for example, a person with type 1 diabetes will die within one year of diagnosis.

"We are seeing an alarming increase of both type1 and type2 diabetes in children. We need to act now to prevent early onset of complications and possible death.

"With early diagnosis and appropriate care, a child with diabetes can live a full and healthy life," said Dr Kaufman.

There are two main types of diabetes type 1, which requires treatment with insulin for survival, and type 2 diabetes, are both on the rise in children and adolescents.

The IDF said new figures showed that Over 70,000 children develop type-1 diabetes each year and that 440,000 children worldwide under the age of 14 now live with type1 diabetes.

At the same time, type-2 diabetes, previously unheard of in children, is rising at alarming rates, especially among ethnic minorities.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood and can strike children at any age, including pre-school children and toddlers.

Dr Kaufman said diabetes in childhood increased the risk of life-threatening diabetes complications at an early age.

In this regard, when diabetes is diagnosed in the young, life expectancy is shortened by an average 10 to 20 years.

Dr Graham Ogle who leads the IDF Life for a Child program said action was required to save children's lives.

"We provide life-saving diabetes supplies and care to 500 children in 13 countries, but there are so many more that we can't yet reach," he said adding that next year, the IDF aimed to attract sufficient funding and donations to expand the program.

The organisation has declared 2007 as the Year of the Child.

"Our campaign sets out to firmly establish the message that 'no child should die of diabetes." said Dr Ogle.

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