Rising Rates of Prediabetes in Teens – Educational Opportunity?
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
In March of this year, JAMA Pediatrics reported that nearly 30% of adolescents, teens in the U.S. have prediabetes. This alarming rise signals that many of them will be on the path to full-blown diabetes as they reach adulthood. This study includes just over 40% of young people who are obese and indicates that the prevalence for prediabetes has more than doubled since 1999 for adolescents who live in poverty. These striking statistics may provide an opportunity for retail dietitians to partner with communities to offer solutions. Here are some potential strategies for intervention:
- Partner for success. Enlisting the support of various community and health partners will help ensure you reach more individuals in need of healthy changes. If you are conducting consultations, let Family Practice and Pediatric Physicians know that you have the expertise to reach young clients. Their offices may also want to promote any appropriate educational programs you conduct. Consider the barriers low-income families have for purchasing and preparing nourishing meals. Talk with your local food bank about combining educational efforts on healthy food choices and easy meal prep, and support transportation services to improve access to your stores for families in need.
- Promote physical activity. Increasing physical activity among young people is a major factor for reducing their risk for prediabetes and diabetes. Seek out ways your stores can help sponsor or support community events such as walks or bike rides. If your community has a trail system, consider creating a monthly program encouraging families to come out for an energizing hike and healthy snack. Local fitness facilities may also have ideas for partnering with your stores to promote their programs together with affordable and healthy meal planning classes from your team.
- Provide action-oriented steps and solutions. Teens will benefit most by instituting small, sustainable steps to boost their health. For example, swapping out calorie-heavy beverages for low-calorie options, making fruits and veggies easy snack choices, consuming a simple nourishing breakfast, making daily movement fun, and alternatives to low-nutrient, high-caloric foods. Gamify the educational steps while pointing out affordable healthy options at your store to make it fun.
- Get involved with schools. Many schools have student walks to raise funds and/or they promote student activities such as Girls on the Run. Become involved by providing a nutrition pep talk, healthy snacks or to discuss a win-win involvement strategy for your retailer.
- Focus on the family. Overweight teens with prediabetes often have parents and other family members who are also struggling with health concerns and obesity. Share tips with parents to help them address issues successfully with their adolescents such as how to sneak in more activity along with easy and affordable family meal inspiration to encourage healthy food changes versus dieting. Use Family Meals Month to kick off the discussion about the rise in teen prediabetes and how family mealtime can positively influence this trend.