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Pediatr Diabetes. 2003 Mar;4(1):38-56.

Prevention of type 2 diabetes in young people: a theoretical perspective.

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Energy Metabolism Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center, Tufts University, Boston, USA.


Type 2 diabetes in youth is an increasing public health concern, especially in certain minority populations. The current paper consists of four sections. First, we establish the significance of the problem by presenting an overview of epidemiological and physiological evidence. Second, we discuss behavioral issues relevant to the prevention of type 2 diabetes in youth. Third, a qualitative review of existing prevention interventions specific to type 2 diabetes in youth is presented. Results suggest that modest improvements in social cognitive, dietary, and exercise outcomes are possible with diabetes intervention studies, although beneficial changes are difficult to sustain over the long term. Although theoretical frameworks are not always explicit, most studies have utilized elements of the social cognitive theory. Less attention has been paid to sociocultural and community organization variables. Finally, the paper discusses issues of risk definition and intervention sustainability, and presents a comprehensive, theoretically diverse model for the prevention of type 2 diabetes in youth. In summary, we suggest that theories of the natural history and pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes are important to identify modifiable risk factors, while theories of behavioral change are essential to modify the risk factors identified. The combination of sound physiological and behavioral theories should form the basis of prevention intervention design. In addition, an ecologic approach that takes into consideration the dynamic interactions of personal, social, and environmental factors would best promote the long-term adoption of healthful behaviors in a supportive, meaningful, and personally enjoyable context.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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