Rise of diabetes cases among students rings an alarm bell

DUBAI — An alarming increase of diabetes among school children has prompted authorities to ensure that students eat right and exercise more so as to manage the condition on their own.


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Sun 14 Nov 2010, 9:25 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:59 PM

Health authorities have said that a steady increase in the number of diabetic children in public schools has been witnessed over the past years.

They said that the increase of Type 2 diabetes — which is the more common one — in children is mainly being triggered due to obesity.

“The disease earlier appeared in people aged 40 and above, but with an increasing number of children being affected, it is imperative that we take action now,” said Dr Mariam Matroushi, Director, School Health Department at the health ministry.

A total of 503 children (9.5 per cent of the total number) between Grades 1 to 12 currently studying in public schools are diabetic with females making up the majority. Studies carried out by the department in public schools in all emirates annually suggest that the numbers peaked in 2008-2009, but fell slightly in 2009-2010. Diabetic children need to be monitored closely,” she said during a workshop to train teachers, nurses and school fitness trainers at Dubai Women’s Association recently to mark World Diabetes Day that falls on November 14.

As part of the project “Taking diabetes to schools”, the health ministry will raise awareness of the dangers of poor eating and exercising habits among educational staff, students and parents.

“We need to train educational staff on how to deal with diabetic students in schools to prevent complications,” said Dr Matroushi.

While the ministry is focussing on schools in the Northern Emirates, the Dubai Health Authority is taking similar initiatives and assessing sample groups from schools to identify risk factors leading to the chronic condition.

According to Dr Matroushi, diabetics also need to be told how to care for themselves and others on the playground.

“They should also be given the confidence of being able to help others in case of need.”

“To tackle diabetes, we need to deal with obesity first,” she said, adding that a programme had been developed for that as well.

The programme will ensure school cafeteria and lunchboxes have meals developed by a dietitian.

Staff is also being trained on how to deal with emergencies, allowing the students to eat small meals and even attending the toilet during lessons or activities, if necessary.

Sports teachers will also be required to plan activities according to the students’ need and watch out for any warning signs. “30 minutes of physical activity daily is enough to control diabetes,” said Dr Osama Lala from the Physical Education Department, Ministry of Education.

“Sugar levels remain stable if proper and timely exercise is done and the correct diet routine is followed,” he said.

“There is a need to control the levels of activity as well,” he explained. Over activity can also lead to abrupt changes in sugar levels, he added.


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