Recognizing the compelling need to improve prevention, treatment, care and support services for children with diabetes, the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) has scaled up initiatives to address both types of diabetes among children: type-I and type-II, said Dr Anil Kapur, President of WDF, who spoke to CNS after receiving the IDRF Lifetime Achievement Award.
"For type-I diabetes WDF is supporting initiatives in several low-income and least developed countries where we are working along with other organizations, and providing funding for training of doctors to be able to provide appropriate care for children with type-I diabetes" said Dr Anil Kapur.
"This type-I diabetes is a special form of diabetes and needs special kind of attention. In addition to this, we are funding initiatives that will produce materials which would be useful for both: these children and their parents, for self-care" added Dr Kapur.
"WDF supports camps where children with type-I diabetes can meet other children with type-I diabetes and learn from each other and take courage from each other on how they are managing their diabetes. We do that in 5-6 countries in Africa" said Dr Kapur.
"Coming to the initiatives on how do we work on obesity and reducing the risk of type-II diabetes in children, we are funding several programmes, in several countries around the world, where basically these programmes are addressing school health. Teachers are being trained on how to communicate with children about physical activities and health food. Children are screened in a non-invasive way to find if they are obese or overweight or if there is a very strong risk of diabetes then they are also screened for diabetes" said Dr Kapur.
"Predominantly what this school health programme does is that it provides an environment where children actively participate. There are healthy lunch-box competition, debates and discussions on healthy living, on what is good and what is bad for health, and demonstrations on how they can practice yoga, or how physical activity is important for them, writing competitions, essays, slogan writing. These programmes also serve issues like canteen food, and food that is served around the school location, because you might change food at the school canteen but there are shops around the schools which offer junk food and aerated soft drinks which can be harmful" said Dr Kapur.
There is a big programme in north India with Dr Anoop Mishra of Diabetes Foundation (India), and similarly there is another programme in south Indian state of Kerala with Dr G Vijaya Kumar in Pathanamthitta district, where entire district schools are covered with school health initiatives and state education department is taking interest in it, and local education department officials are involved as well as the gram panchayat is also getting involved, informed Dr Kapur.
Apart from India WDF is also funding similar initiatives in other countries.
"There is also a very interesting programme we did in Andhra Pradesh where school children were taught about healthy living, diabetes, obesity and how to avoid it, and as part of the school project they were encouraged to go and screen people in their close community for urine sugar, and they were taught how to do the urine sugar and go and check adults and report back" said Dr Anil Kapur. "Of course urine sugar is not the most appropriate test but for children it was a good exercise where they combined practical demonstration of how testing is done along with the learning about issues around diabetes" added Dr Kapur.
Let us hope that governments are listening and will integrate healthy living initiatives in existing programmes targetting children, particularly those at high risk of diabetes in an effective manner. (CNS)
(The author is a CNS Policy Adviser and received the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General’s WNTD Award 2008. He writes extensively on health and development for Citizen News Service (CNS). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)