(Albany, NY) – Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) introduced a bill that would require screening for diabetes when children get their school physicals. This year Ortiz held six hearings on the epidemic of childhood obesity and introduced six bills in response to the problem. The obesity crisis is leading to an unexpected growth in childhood diabetes. Diabetes rates in New York State increased by more than 50% from 1994 to 2001. Most of this increase is in the form of Type 2 diabetes which is related to obesity and lifestyle. This form of diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes. In the past ten years the medical community has noticed a marked increase in Type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents as childhood obesity has become an epidemic.
Earlier this summer a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) researcher announced that one in three U.S. children born in 2000 will become diabetic unless children start eating less and exercising more. The odds are worse for black and Hispanic children with nearly half of them likely to develop the disease. The study found that 53 percent of healthy 2 to 3 year old Hispanic girls and 45 percent of the boys are likely to develop diabetes. About 49 percent and 40 percent of black girls and boys, and 31 percent and 27 percent of white girls and boys are at risk. The lifetime risk is about triple the American Diabetes Association's current estimate. Experts believe these rates could overwhelm the health care system in the next fifty years.
According to Ortiz, “We need to respond to the obesity problem but at the same time keep track of the serious consequences such as diabetes. Anyone who learns of these research results should understand why I am trying to get the government and public to pay attention to the most costly threat to public health in this country. When children get their school physicals their doctor or the school physician should check for diabetes. The costs of screening for diabetes will be dwarfed by the billions in additional hospital and doctor visit costs in 20 years when these children reach adulthood. We can use the diabetes tests as part of our prevention efforts.”
Under current law school physicals are required for children entering first, third and seventh and tenth grade. These examinations may be performed by the child’s doctor or provided at school. Ortiz’ proposal would have the physician perform a diabetes risk analysis and if the child was at high-risk they would receive further testing.
Assemblyman Ortiz already sponsors bills to: prevent child obesity through media programs and school and community-based programs to improve nutrition and increase physical activity, and provide training to medical professionals; require calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and sodium content on menus; expand existing school snack restrictions to prevent school vending machines from selling soda and candy all day and to require nutritional items be sold as well; require health insurance coverage for Medical Nutrition Therapy; and, increase the quality and quantity of physical education in schools; and, fund obesity prevention through a small surcharge on certain foods, video games and other entertainment, and television ads aimed at children.
“The CDC is also telling us that there are now nearly 300,000 deaths each year linked to obesity, which is getting close to the 400,000 annual deaths from tobacco. A recent study reveals that one-third of cancer deaths are linked to nutrition and obesity. The diabetes numbers are even worse. We have to act now to prevent a ticking time bomb that will overwhelm our health care system and resources in the coming years. The real tragedy is that most nutrition-related health problems are preventable and we owe it to our children to give them the opportunity to become healthy, productive adults,” said Ortiz.