Physicians Studying, Addressing Diabetes, Obesity Among Minority Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

Newsweek in its current issue profiled Francine Kaufman and Anne Peters, both physicians and researchers from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine who are working to prevent diabetes among at-risk populations and find "innovative treatments" for those who have the disease. Kaufman treats children with diabetes and heads the Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, while Peters focuses on adults with diabetes. A few days each week, Peters leads a team at a Los Angeles-based clinic that cares for 2,000 immigrants with diabetes.

According to Newsweek, nearly 50% of all black and Hispanic children born in 2000 are expected to be diagnosed with diabetes at some point in their lives. By comparison, among all U.S. children born in 2000, one in three will be diagnosed with diabetes at some point in their lives. Kaufman, a past president of the American Diabetes Association, said, "We are at the vortex of the obesity and type 2 diabetes explosion."


Peters and Kaufman in 2004 examined two neighborhoods in Los Angeles -- both heavily populated by minorities -- to try to study diabetes and tailor solutions to the neighborhood's characteristics. They found that the neighborhoods lacked healthy grocery options and were oversaturated with fast food establishments. They also found cultural barriers that would hamper obesity prevention efforts, such as fast food being seen as a status symbol and concerns about food shortages that lead some immigrants to eat too much.

Peters and Kaufman have been developing efforts to improve the diets of minority communities, such as offering cooking classes at a local farmers market to demonstrate how to use fresh foods. They also helped start a new farmers market and have been working on a program that teaches children about exercise and parents about nutrition.

In addition, Kaufman is leading a national study to determine whether making changes in school cafeterias, health classes and gym programs can lead to a reduction in obesity and blood sugar levels among middle school children. Kaufman also is chairing an NIH-funded study that is seeking to determine what treatment options are most effective for children with type 2 diabetes (Murr, Newsweek, 9/17 issue).

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