SENIOR doctors fear Bradford could be faced with a “tidal wave” of children with Type 2 diabetes unless action is taken.
The city is now a "hotspot" for the condition and experts have said it could pose a “significant public health problem”. Paediatricians at the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have seen an increase in the number of young people being diagnosed with the condition - a monthly children’s Type 2 diabetes clinic at the Bradford Royal Infirmary is currently treating 18 patients under the age of 16.
Consultant Paediatrician Dr Mathew Mathai started working with children with diabetes 18 years ago when children’s clinics predominantly managed Type 1 diabetes, which is not linked to diet or lifestyle. Now, around 10 per cent of his young diabetes patients are children with this form of the condition.
He said: “Type 2 diabetes when it develops in children appears to have a much worse course than when it develops in adulthood. Complications develop earlier and can be evident just a few years after diagnosis.
“They include damage to the small blood vessels of the eye, the kidneys and to other important organs. And therefore we really need to try and see how we can reduce that risk, but there are very few treatment options.
“We now have a monthly clinic for children with Type 2 diabetes because we are seeing more and more children with this condition.
“We don’t know whether diabetes can be completely reversed in children by addressing their diet, weight and exercise. However, we now know from experiences in the US that children who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes can have serious diabetes-related complications in their 20s and will therefore have to live with this burden for several decades.
“People of South Asian origin, girls and those with a family history of Type 2 diabetes are most at risk of developing it.”
Professor John Wright, Director of Research at the Bradford Institute for Health Research, who leads the Born in Bradford study, which is tracking 14,000 babies born in Bradford between 2007 and 2009, said: “We know that our South Asian children in the first year of life have pretty similar physical activity to white children, but by three or four they’re more sedentary.
"By five or six they’re really considerably less physically active and by 10 and 11 that’s really starting to pull away - and particularly in South Asian girls. So we’re seeing those trajectories of physical activity really at an early stage, and that divergence between ethnic groups.”
Dr Mathai added: “We need to create a better environment. Having 25 takeaway shops within walking distances of some homes and local areas with no green spaces or sporting facilities is not helpful.
“I believe we are seeing the tip of the iceberg.
"As a diabetes team we fear that there may be a significant proportion of children who we currently don’t know about who are on the cusp of developing diabetes. A tidal wave may be coming, and we need to think about addressing this in a much more holistic way - and urgently.
“At the clinic we give advice on diet and exercise, how to lose weight and on blood glucose and monitoring weight.
"We usually see our young patients every three months.
"As a team we feel we need to be more creative in our solutions. Bradford is now a hotspot for Type 2 diabetes in children.”
Dr Junaid Azam, a local GP and clinical lead for diabetes at NHS Bradford district and Craven clinical commissioning groups said it 's recognised Type 2 diabetes and obesity in Bradford children is increasing, but tackling the problem is a key priority.
The Living Well programme has been launched, in partnership with Bradford Council, in a bid to make it easier for people to be more active and eat a balanced diet.