Research Matters at AHSC: Steele Memorial Childrens Research Center

George Humphrey
May 21, 2001

Testing For Diabetes In Douglas, Arizona

Children in Arizona have a high incidence of diabetes compared to the rest of the country. Among Hispanic and Native American populations, the incidence of diabetes is more than twice the national average. Most children diagnosed with diabetes have juvenile diabetes (Type 1). However, within the last decade doctors have seen an alarming increase in the number of children and adolescents with adult onset, or Type 2, diabetes.

Dr. Naznin Dixit, assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics in Endocrinology and a member of the Steele Memorial Children's Research Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, is leading an effort to screen every student in Douglas High School, where 92 percent of the student body is Hispanic. Physicians and researchers believe this epidemic may be due to a variety of factors - including genetics, metabolism and environment - and complicated by obesity, low birth weight and malnutrition.

"Type 2 diabetes can develop slowly and a patient may not know for years that the disease is developing," Dixit says. "By the time it is diagnosed it can be in an advanced stage."

Students whose glucose levels are suspicious for diabetes will receive further testing. Teens diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes will be referred to a pediatric endocrinologist for disease management. Teens with risk factors for diabetes (obesity, family history) will be given medical counseling.

"It's important to determine if there truly is a trend toward Type 2 diabetes among Mexican- American youths," Dixit says. "If that's so, we can develop health-promotion programs to incorporate into the school curriculum and reduce risk factors."

The Steele Memorial Children's Research Center is one of eight Centers of Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Internationally renowned scientists and physicians, who also are part of the UA department of pediatrics, work together to research causes and develop cures for childhood illnesses and diseases.




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