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Pediatric Diabetes

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Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a metabolic disease where there is too much sugar in the bloodstream either because the body cannot produce enough insulin, the body produces no insulin, or because the body's cells do not respond to insulin. It is not a contagious disease. There are 2 types of diabetes in children, type 1 and type 2. With diabetes, the blood sugar rises and can cause polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increasing thirst), and polyphagia (increasing hunger). Diabetes can be controlled by keeping blood sugar levels within a normal range, eating well, and being physically active. However when diabetes is poorly controlled, it can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and amputation of toes, feet, and legs.

Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes, or early onset diabetes. It is usually brought on suddenly as the body (for reasons unknown) stops making insulin. While the disease can develop at any age, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed more often in children and young adults. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease or triggered by a virus, but a clear cause is unknown. Risk factors include genetics and environmental exposures. Between 2001 and 2009, the prevalence of type 1 diabetes in people 1-19 years rose 23% in the U.S. Type 1 diabetes occurs equally among males and females but is more common in whites than in nonwhites. The World Health Organization's Multinational Project for Childhood Diabetes indicates that type 1 diabetes is rare in most African, American Indian, and Asian populations but some northern European countries, including Finland and Sweden, have high rates of type 1 diabetes.

Did You Know?

In 2010 an estimated 215,000 Americans younger than age 20 had diabetes (type 1 or type 2 disease).

Source: U.S. CDC 2011

Type 2 diabetes comes on more slowly than type 1 and is more commonly diagnosed in people 45 years of age or older who are overweight. However, individuals can be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at any age and it is increasingly being diagnosed in younger populations. In type 2 diabetes the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin that it makes. Approximately 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. Genetics and environmental causes can play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Research into the role of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (e.g., dioxin, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, etc.) suggest a possible association between exposure to POPs and diabetes in adults but little research has been conducted on children to date. POPs may alter insulin action, however a specific mechanism is not known. Air pollution, specifically exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5), may contribute to diabetes prevalence in adults but no information exists for children at this time.  According to the American Diabetes Association, being overweight is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity, and age also play a role.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health/Bureau of Environmental Health (MDPH/BEH) began to track the occurrence of pediatric diabetes in the 2008-2009 school year. The source of the data is school health records for all public, private, and charter schools in Massachusetts serving any grades kindergarten through 8 (ages 5-14). Prevalence is presented per 100,000 population and confidence intervals shown indicate the precision of the prevalence estimate. Note that when less than 6 cases of diabetes (either type) are reported and the total population of students is less than 1200, "NS" (not shown) is reported due to the small numbers.

The number and prevalence of children with diabetes can be viewed by selecting from the choices on the right toolbar. For each year of data available, pediatric diabetes prevalence estimates are compared to statewide prevalence to determine if they are statistically significantly higher, lower, or the same as the statewide pediatric diabetes prevalence.

Data Considerations

When reviewing and interpreting pediatric diabetes data, it is important to take into consideration the following:

  • The data available for pediatric diabetes are limited to students in grades K-8.
  • Data are collected by gender, grade and school year for different geographic areas. However, due to  privacy regulations the data  is displayed below the county level.
  • A variety of factors can impact diabetes rates (e.g., genetics). Therefore, when comparing rates across geographic areas, information such as non-environmental causes of diabetes must also be considered.
  • Prevalence is not age-adjusted. When comparing prevalence estimates across counties, keep in mind that some of the observed differences in prevalence estimates may be due to differences in the age distribution of students in each county.

For additional information, please read the FAQ.

Available Data on Pediatric Diabetes
Click the Explore Data link on this page to access the following measures for pediatric diabetes in your county on the right toolbar. The most current available data will be shown.  Be sure to check the site periodically as new data are added each year. To protect privacy, no information is shown that could identify an individual. 
  • Pediatric diabetes prevalence in counties and statewide by school year
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