Not Enough Doctors to Treat Increasing Number of Obese and Diabetic Children

The number of diabetic and obese children is growing so rapidly that there aren’t enough doctors to treat the kids. According to a recent study by University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Hospital, there is only one board-certified pediatric endocrinologist per 290 children with diabetes. The ratio of obese children to board-certified endocrinologists is 17,000 to 1. The rate if childhood obesity in the United States meanwhile has more than doubled in the past 20 years, with a corresponding increase in the number of children at risk for type 1and type 2 diabetes.

"Although the American Diabetes Association recommends that all children with diabetes be cared for by a pediatric endocrinologist as part of a diabetes team, there is a current shortage of pediatric endocrinologists in this country," says study lead author Joyce Lee, M.D., MPH, a pediatric endocrinologist and member of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit in the U-M Division of General Pediatrics. "This problem will likely only worsen due to the recent epidemic of childhood obesity."

The 16.5% of American children aged 6 to 19 who are obese are at risk for ‘adult’ diseases such as type 2 diabetes, elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol. As a result more children than ever are being referred to pediatric endocrinologists for screening, evaluation and management. "But even if just a small fraction of obese children are referred to a pediatric endocrinologist for evaluation", says Lee, " the overall ratio of one pediatric endocrinologist to 17,000 obese children makes providing the necessary care extremely challenging." Dr. Lee is assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the U-M Medical School.

Available pediatric endocrinologists are so few in relation to the number of children at risk that they cannot see even a fraction of the children with diabetes or at risk for the disease. "The epidemic of childhood obesity has undoubtedly created new challenges for our health care, and we need to reassess the current system to ensure children with diabetes or at risk for diabetes receive appropriate care," Lee notes.

Pediatric endocrinologists currently do not have the capabilities to see even a fraction of the large number of children with diabetes or at risk for diabetes. "The epidemic of childhood obesity has undoubtedly created new challenges for our health care, and we need to reassess the current system to ensure children with diabetes or at risk for diabetes receive appropriate care," Lee notes.

Using data from the American Board of Pediatrics and the National Survey of Children’s Health, Lee and her colleagues compared the number of board certified pediatric endocrinologists by region to obese children and children with diabetes in those same areas.

Their research revealed that there are an estimated 229,249 children with diabetes, and only 790 board-certified pediatric endocrinologists in the country. And, in two states—Montana and Wyoming—there are no board-certified pediatric endocrinologists.

The study was published in the March, 2008 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

Comments

  1. abdullah says

    you mentioned that there is only one board-certified pediatric endocrinologist per 290 children with diabetes.
    my question is : what is the proper ratio ? i.e. howmany certified Ped Endocrinologist needed for 100 children with DM ?
    Thanks

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