Region 8 School Works To Help Diabetic Students - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Broseley -- Heather Flanigan Reports

Region 8 School Works To Help Diabetic Students

November 15, 2004 – Posted at 5:45 p.m. CST

BROSELEY -- Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and the trend in children with the disease is only getting worse. The Centers for Disease Control reports that one in every 500 children has Type 1 diabetes. While the disease can be heriditary, for families leading a sedentary lifestyle, that number could go up.

“Of recent, this big increase in Type 2 diabetes of the young. It's disturbing, because it's basically related to lifestyle. I see lots of kids who are playing basketball, football, baseball and they never leave their house. They're playing on the computer,” said pharmacist Dodson Cravens of the Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center.

The CDC estimates that 6.3% of the United States population has diabetes. With so many folks battling the disease, the impact on society is growing. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has identified more than 1600 students as diabetics.

One Region 8 school is working to help diabetic students lead healthy live styles. Nurse Rhonda Acre keeps busy tending to more than a thousand students at the Twin Rivers School District. She keeps an especially close eye on five students who have diabetes.

“The main thing we do is monitoring the insulin and the diet,” said Acre.

The diabetic students range from grades second through eleventh.

“We take the responsibility for letting everybody know who the diabetics are and where they're at in their classes,” said Acre, “Then the teachers, we make them aware of the symptoms to report and they pretty well depend on us to, you know, if the kids are having problems which is good. That's what we're here for.”

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 18.2 million Americans have diabetes and of that number, more than 5 million Americans don't even know they have it. That was the case with Tiffany Fisk, who didn't realize she had the disease until just a few months ago.

“It was shocking to learn about and I was scared at first,” said Fisk, as she grabbed her books for class.

The high school junior spends a lot of time in the nurse's office, making sure she stays healthy.

“When I go to eat at lunch, she gives me like a menu and I have to choose like what I want to eat and then how many carbohydrates it is. Then I have to check my sugar and then it tells me like how much insulin I give myself,” said Fisk.

“We work with the kitchen staff and with the nutrition director and get the carbohydrate content their foods. We plan their menus with them and what they like and what they don't like and what the carbohydrate content is according to what their prescription for their diet,” said Acre.

The nurses try to start early by teaching diabetic children good nutrition.

“One thing we've had to do is increase staff for the younger children. We have a companion aide that does assist them during meal time and to monitor them during their recess time because when you have a five-year-old that comes in sometimes they may not always remember what they're supposed to do as far as their meals,” said Acre.

The Twin Rivers School District is also working to create healthy environments for their non-diabetic students as well. A Gatorade vending machine was installed to help gear students away from sodas.

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