“We’re seeing younger and younger people with type 2 diabetes and weight problems that put them at high risk of diabetes,” said Nidia Henderson, wellness director of the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Board. “The national obesity crisis is hitting West Virginia very hard.”
Jenni, a rural obese teen with high blood pressure and cholesterol, gets a full medical screening at a university clinic, then goes back home to no services, no community physical acivity. As 18 percent of West Virginia kindergartners arrive at school obese, West Virginia children are sending up clear red flags of future diabetes and heart disease.
Since 1998, West Virginia University’s CARDIAC program has identified thousands of West Virginia fifth-graders with very high blood pressure, risky cholesterol and obesity – early warning signs of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke – but no state agency has ever followed up on those children.
This disease causes heart attacks and leads to strokes, blindness, arm and leg amputations, nerve damage, kidney failure, liver failure. It kills people early. It’s starting to attack children. And it’s everywhere in West Virginia./
The percentage of West Virginia fifth-graders with high blood pressure dropped significantly in 2011-12, according to measurements by West Virginia University’s CARDIAC program. So did the percentage of fifth-graders with abnormal cholesterol. The obesity rate edged downward.
Cautious, but excited by the news, health advocates credit efforts in the schools and say it’s not quite time to celebrate yet.
West Virginia’s soaring childhood obesity rate is edging down — maybe because the state’s school meals are improving, maybe because of national attention to the problem. There is reason to hope far fewer children will have diabetes and heart disease in the future.
Whatever the reasons, as Charleston Area Medical Center’s Dr. Jamie Jeffrey said, “A lot depends on what we do to keep the momentum going. In many ways, it’s up to us.”