The Coach Speaks Out!

The Coach Speaks Out
with Mike Lushington

    There was an article in the Telegraph-Journal a couple of weeks ago (Friday, April 11) that ran under the heading, "Rise in adult form of diabetes in kids seen". For those of you who may have missed this item, I want to quote, verbatim, the opening paragraph:

    Once a true medical oddity, children with adult diabetes are becoming commonplace. Doctors blame the twin evils of too much food and too little exercise and fear a tragic upswing in disastrous diabetic complications as this overweight generation reaches adulthood.

    Type two, or adult onset diabetes, is commonly a disease of people in their 50's. 60's or older.It seems to arise most often after a lifetime of little activity and too much food and has often been called a "lifestyle affliction." At that age, it can be controlled with insulin and many people manage to live reasonably comfortably with it.It is an entirely different, and much more tragic, story when it is contracted by children. That is because of the long-term effects of the disease, which include kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, and a host of other ailments, as well as creating complications for even rather minor problems. To cite just one example of the latter, a friend of mine had to be hospitalized for a lengthy stay because a minor sore refused to heal and threatened to become chronically infected. He is a diabetes two sufferer.

    Two aspects of this problem concern me in particular. One of them is the obvious one, I suppose, for readers of this column. I have been harping for some time over the fact that our children are grossly overweight and under active. We have to share the blame for this deplorable state of affairs. Parents who indulge their kids with far too much of the wrong kinds of food, education systems that have undermined and eliminated physical education programs in schools, and a whole succession of lawmakers and others who have made playgrounds, vacant lots, quiet side streets, and other erstwhile play areas off limits for those kids who might want to get out and play.

    The other, though, is one that occurs to me whenever I read, see, or hear yet another panic story over the SARS threat.Without questioning anything about the severity of this problem, I do have to wonder about our preoccupation with the rare and the exotic, while blithely continuing to ignore or downplay the commonplace. SARS came out of nowhere and has killed perhaps two hundred people across the world. Millions of dollars are being directed toward the fight to identify, control and eradicate this beast.In the meantime, ten times as many kids under the age of thirteen are being diagnosed with Type Two diabetes as was the case only ten years ago. Nearly 50% of all children in North America are overweight, and nearly 40 % of them are grossly so. Everyone of those tens of millions of kids is in danger of contracting this disease, which threatens to kill most of them before they reach fifty - and we seem to do nothing.

    I have a bitter wager to offer anyone who is of a bit of a gambler. It is simply this: ten years from now, SARS will be a minor blip on the medical charts, a disease that a few people remember hearing about before it was eradicated or controlled by a vaccine. On the other hand, hospitals and health care systems will be inundated with the true plague of the twenty-first century - the horrible wasting diseases, including Type Two Diabetes, of supposedly young but miserably unhealthy adults - the sad products of our benign but systematic neglect.


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