Although Puerto Rico’s birth rate continues to decline, the incidence or new cases of certain diseases among the child population, such as diabetes, continues to increase.
In the last 13 years (2009-2022), 2,850 pediatric cases of type 1 diabetes in minors have been diagnosed, with an annual average of 204 cases, the Pediatric Diabetes Foundation reported this week, announcing the launch of the first diabetes platform. pediatric type 1 diabetes in Puerto Rico.
The platform was developed together with the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute and is available through the link: https://estadisticas.pr/en/diabetes-tipo-1.
“Through these numbers, the government must pay more attention and then force the services (necessary to this population) to be provided,” said Bernardo Maldonado, president of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Mariana Benitez, executive director of the Foundation, highlighted that this is the first time that data on pediatric cases of type 1 diabetes in Puerto Rico have been collected and presented under a formal structure.
Also, the Dr. Orville Disdier, executive director of the Institute of Statistics, highlighted that data helps in establishing public policy to guarantee and improve the services that these patients need. Also, he said, they allow obtaining funds for the same purpose.
According to Maldonado, the parents and guardians of these minors continue to face difficulties in obtaining pre-authorization for the treatments that these patients need, such as insulin. This hormone is necessary for the person to maintain blood glucose levels within normal parameters.
Need to educate in schools
Maldonado also drew attention to the need to educate more about this chronic disease, especially in schools. For example, he maintained that there are still school personnel who object to authorized people being able to assist minors with this condition within the facilities.
“The government must establish a public policy on how to manage these children, otherwise, at the adult level, they will have complications, such as kidney and vision problems, and that affects productivity as well,” said Maldonado. Law 99 of 2015 imposes on each public and private school institution the responsibility of providing an environment with adequate management for the condition of type 1 diabetes.
According to Dr. Marina Ruiz, many of the pediatric diabetes diagnoses are made between 10 and 14 years of age. Urinary frequency, excessive thirst, tiredness and poor growth are some of the symptoms to watch out for, she mentioned.
“It is important for parents to be more alert to the symptoms to avoid landing in an emergency room with a complication, such as diabetic ketoacidosis (acute metabolic complication),” noted the Dr. Leticia Hernandezpresident of the Puerto Rican Society of Endocrinology and Diabetology.
The endocrinologist highlighted that type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition, which is why insurance companies should not continue asking for medical justification for the therapies that patients need, considering that insulin is essential in their treatment.
According to Dr. Ruiz, in Puerto Rico there are only 13 pediatric endocrinologists who are part of the medical faculty of 10 of the 68 hospitals on the island.
“We are very few and there are not many (medical students) studying (this subspecialty), which is why many places remain open,” he lamented, while deploring that in Puerto Rico there is also no medical residency for this medical subspecialty.