By Charles Hallman
The WNBA, NBA and the NBA Development League in February joined forces with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) to launch the Dribble to Stop Diabetes national campaign.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2011 fact sheet, nearly 26 million people have diabetes, 8.3 percent of the U.S. population; 18.8 million people have been diagnosed with it, and seven million more go undiagnosed.
Of U.S. residents aged 65 years or older, 26.9 percent (10.9 million) had diabetes in 2010. About 215,000 people younger than 20 years old either had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes last year. Close to two million people aged 20 years or older were newly diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 in the U.S.
Diabetes also is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States. It is a major cause of heart disease and stroke and the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
The CDC also reports that 18.7 percent of all Blacks in the U.S. age 20 years or older, 4.9 million, have diabetes. The diabetes rate is 77 percent higher among Blacks, 68 percent higher among Latinos, and 18 percent higher among Asians compared to U.S. White adults.
Among Latinos, the risk for diabetes was about the same for Cubans and for Central and South Americans (7.6 percent each), 87 percent higher for Mexican Americans, and 94 percent higher for Puerto Ricans compared to White adults.
Type 1 diabetes, formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes, develops when the body’s immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that produces insulin. There is no known way to prevent Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. It is usually associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, physical inactivity and race or ethnicity.
Dribble to Stop Diabetes distributes diabetes educational materials through the NBA/WNBA FIT program to educate fans of all ages, especially youngsters. Five Minnesota Lynx players — Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Lindsay Whalen — worked with 75 boys and girls from Anwatin Middle School during an hour-long WNBA FIT Dribble to Stop Diabetes clinic on the team’s home court on Oct. 3.
“These women are practicing what they preach,” noted Minnesota’s ADA Executive Director Jenni Hargraves of the players’ working with the youngsters on basketball fundamentals while emphasizing the importance of staying active and living a healthy lifestyle.
When McWilliams-Franklin asked the youngsters how many play sports, a good number of hands went up. But when the mother of three asked how many play video games, virtually all of them responded in kind.
“All these things are great,” admits the team’s oldest player, who will turn 41 on Oct. 20, in reference to today’s popular tech gadgets, “but most important is fitness.”
A national study found that losing weight and increasing physical activity reduces the development of Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. The study further added that changing lifestyles was effective in all racial and ethnic groups.
“You have to put down those Smartphones and those Xbox controllers…and do something,” continues McWilliams-Franklin. “Put down that phone — get off the computer, and spend 30 minutes” of daily physical activity, she quickly suggests.
“You have to make time for fitness. Every day in my house, we do 30 minutes of just dancing. I do [a] silly dance, as do my husband and eight-year-old [daughter]. We have dance parties. You can do this after school in your room. You don’t have to go outside to exercise.”
“To see these players, who are local celebrities, is a specific message for our young people,” continues Hargraves. “They will take the message differently than they would [from other adults].”
WNBA President Laurel Richie and Player Personnel head Renee Brown also were present, encouraging the youngsters.
“Any time we can spend time in person with kids talking about the importance of physical fitness, giving them actual skills so that they take [that] away with them, I think it is real important,” says the league’s top executive, who also briefly spoke to the group.
She added that McWilliams-Franklin’s “motherly” advice “carries more weight. “Taj can tell you things that your mom or your dad or your aunt or schoolteacher can’t tell you [about the importance of being fit].”
“I think that fitness and health always have been important to the WNBA. It’s [also] important to our players,” says Brown.
The ADA-WNBA joint venture is “a great partnership” in raising more awareness about diabetes, how to prevent and how to manage it, and its serious health complications, says Hargraves, who encourages everyone who wants more information to visit the organization’s website (www.dribbletostopdiabetes.com).
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com