The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is expanding its type 2 diabetes prevention efforts into the classroom in response to an increased prevalence of the disease in the county.
The Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes Prevention Toolkit for Schools, recently released by Public Health in response to a November 2021 motion by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis, provides K-12 schools with multiple school-based resources to help create environments that support healthy eating and engagement in regular physical activity.
“More children and teenagers, particularly from communities of color, are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and we must act to address this key social determinant of health,” said Solis. “Fortunately, a type 2 diabetes diagnosis can be prevented with early intervention, including increasing access to a healthy diet and encouraging physical activity, which is why I was proud to lead a motion to address the incidents of diabetes for Los Angeles County residents, including our children. This toolkit will help our schools improve access to healthy meals, reduce food waste, and provide culturally relevant messaging geared toward our diverse students and their families.”
The percentage of individuals diagnosed with diabetes has increased in Los Angeles County over the last decade, from 9.5 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2018. Type 2 diabetes disproportionately affects African Americans (14.4 percent) and Hispanic/Latino Americans (13.6 percent), with the lowest prevalence among Asian Americans (8.2 percent).
The South Service Planning Area, including the communities of Compton, Crenshaw, Watts and surrounding areas, has the highest prevalence of diabetes at 14.7 percent. The Antelope Valley has the second highest prevalence at 13.1 percent.
“Historically, interventions to reduce diabetes rates have focused on individual behaviors. But while it’s true that lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of diabetes, the fact of the matter is entire communities are suffering from a lack of access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity because of upstream factors that are out of their control,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “In this context, we recognize that schools are uniquely poised to create environments that support students’ physical, social and mental health. This toolkit will empower K-12 schools in Los Angeles County to do just that.”
The Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes Prevention Toolkit for Schools outlines free and low-cost intervention strategies for schools in 10 categories: physical education and physical activity; nutrition environment and services; health education; social and emotional climate; physical environment; health services; counseling, psychological, and social services; employee wellness; community involvement; and family engagement.
Some of the strategies outlined in the toolkit are already being implemented by partner organizations working with the CalFresh Healthy Living Program. These include:
Free produce distributions in K-12 schools and afterschool programs.
–Installation of freshwater access points and promotion of water consumption.
–Implementation of share tables to reduce food waste and increase access to healthy food among low-income students.
–Enactment of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, which includes applying behavioral economics strategies to encourage students to select and eat nutritious foods in school cafeterias.
–Training afterschool providers to implement daily quality physical activity strategies using Coordinated Approach to Child Health which creates behavioral change by enabling children to identify healthy foods and increasing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
–Promotion of the CalFresh Program, which helps low-income households increase their food purchasing power to meet their household’s nutritional needs.
Click here to view the Diabetes Prevention toolkit.