Bill moves ahead to increase Type 1 diabetes awareness

Bill moves ahead to increase Type 1 diabetes awareness

(Calif.) School districts will be required to identify and implement methods for making parents and students more aware of the signs of Type 1 diabetes in children, under a bill approved unanimously on Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside and author of SB 138, said that simply raising awareness of the symptoms of the disease could lead to an earlier diagnosis for many children and ultimately save lives.

“Type 1 diabetes can be very difficult to detect–particularly in children ages 5 and under,” Roth told committee members. “While we typically do not require school districts to provide this type of information I believe it’s absolutely necessary. It is imperative that parents and students are aware of the symptoms and signs.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune system disease in which a person’s immune system attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, leaving their body unable to break down sugar in the bloodstream.

According to 2014 data from the California Department of Public Health, about 38,000 people live with Type 1 diabetes statewide. The disease accounts for about 5 percent of all cases of diabetes nationally.

The disease can develop at any age, but it is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adolescence.

Early diagnosis and treatment is critical for those with Type 1 diabetes, but many children go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed because of a lack of information or understanding of the disease, according to advocates.

Bret Michaels–vocalist of the glam metal band Poison and an advocate for raising awareness of Type 1 diabetes–testified on behalf of SB 138.

Prior to his own diagnosis as a child, Michaels said that nobody understood what he had. His family, the school nurse and doctors thought it was the flu, or that he was dehydrated before he was finally hospitalized with a blood sugar level of more than 800 milligrams per deciliter–a level which can cause brain and other bodily functions to shut down.

“It is a very deadly disease if left undiagnosed,” Michaels told legislators. “As a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 6, this bill is so important because education and empowerment is everything.”

Specifically, the bill would require districts and charter schools to implement a Type 1 diabetes information campaign by the beginning of 2021.

The information should include, at minimum, a description of Type 1 diabetes; the risk factors and warning signs of the disease; a recommendation that children who display the warning signs receive screening; a description of the screening process for Type 1 diabetes; and a note that an endocrinologist is the preferred specialist for ongoing treatment.

Debbie George, whose son’s story inspired Roth to introduce SB 138, applauded the bill’s passage.

“Senate Bill 138 will bring education through our California school districts to our schools which is desperately needed,” George said in a statement. “Not only will SB 138 help raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes it will also educate the public which will ultimately saves lives, end misconceptions, and bring an understanding of this autoimmune disease.”

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