FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2005
AUSTIN, TX--Today Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. filed Senate Bill 467 to expand the scope and size of the Type 2 diabetes risk assessment program for public and private school children, sponsored by the Border Health Office at the University of Texas-Pan American.
The program, formerly known as the ANTES (Acanthosis Nigricans: The Education and Screening) program, which serves over 520 school districts and would become statewide, involves identifying school-age children who may have risk factors for developing the disease, such as having a body mass index (BMI) above the 95th percentile for age and gender. Other factors that will be assessed will include the presence of acanthosis nigricans (AN), a dark mark found on the neck and/or underarms, but can also be seen on the knuckles, elbows, knees, soles of the feet, inner thighs and skin folds in the abdomen and back; blood pressure; and race or ethnicity with a statistically higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
"This wonderful program has not yet met its full potential, and this bill will certainly assist with that. The goal is to reach as many children as possible, who may be at risk for developing diabetes or may already unknowingly have this disease," said Sen. Lucio.
Sen. Lucio praised Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, co-author, and Rep. Aaron Peña, House sponsor, for their support of the issue and leadership on this legislation. "With the high incidence of Type 2 diabetes among young children, I am very pleased that we have two outstanding legislators who will work hand-in-hand with me to expand a program that should help improve the health outlook of thousands of Texas children," said Sen. Lucio.
"This legislation gives health professionals the tools to evaluate school children who may be at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which is a major concern for us here in South Texas. This program will not only look for acanthosis nigricans but also body mass index (BMI) and elevated blood pressure, which are all significant indicators of Type 2 diabetes," said Sen. Hinojosa.
Rep. Peña noted, "I am very excited about the Risk Assessment for Type 2 Diabetes Program to be administered by the Border Health Office of the University of Texas-Pan American. Identifying our students that are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes is the first step in battling this disease that has reached epidemic proportions here in Texas.
"Attention to the significance of childhood acanthosis nigricans, hereditary factors that produce a higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood pressure is warranted given the soaring numbers of children with excess body weight. I applaud Senator Lucio for his commitment to the improved health of our school-age children and, as the House Sponsor of this bill, I look forward to winning the fight against Type 2 diabetes."
Sen. Lucio also commended Dr. Blandina Cardenas, president of the University of Texas-Pan American, for her leadership role in the effort to combat diabetes among children, as well as Ms. Doreen Garza, executive director and Mr. David Salazar, associate director, both with the Border Health Office.
"Early identification of the risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes and other related maladies in children will help to positively change the lives of our future generations," said Dr. Cardenas. "With early risk assessment we will be able to help families address the health issues to prevent complications as our children grow into adulthood."
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies reports that individuals born in the United States in 2000 face a lifetime risk of being diagnosed with diabetes at some point in their lives, estimated at 30 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls at current obesity level rates. And this risk is even higher among ethnic minority groups. Of Hispanic children born in 2000, about 50 percent of them are expected to become diabetic.
"Now that acanthosis nigricans has become more widely appreciated as a risk marker for future development of Type 2 diabetes and related conditions, a need has evolved to identify greater numbers of at-risk children who might not be discovered by AN screening alone," Dr. Stephen Ponder, pediatric endocrinologist with Driscoll Children's Hospital and medical advisor to the ANTES program.
Dr. Ponder further said, "Consequently, I have recommended to the UTPA Border Health Office that the current school-based AN screening program undergo modification and expansion to include body mass index (BMI) as a focal point measurement, and that parent information packets be educationally enhanced to more effectively inform families of affected children regarding the significance of elevated BMI, AN and/or hypertension. These changes have recently been encouraged by many members of the organized medical community of Texas."
This five-year-old program will assess students during regular hearing/vision and scoliosis screenings. For those children found to be at high risk of developing or having Type 2 diabetes by a school nurse or other trained medical professional, a form with detailed explanation of the assessment, including what the BMI means, is sent home to the parents with recommendations for further health care. All information is kept confidential by the medical professional at the child's school, and only statistical information is entered into the Border Health Office's statewide database.