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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy is an old saying. This adage assumes importance as India is fast developing into a diabetes capital of the world as sports activities get short shrift by the Establishment. Sadly, it does not form vital part of Indian ethos.

India is seeing rising diabetic cases amongst children. Most are affected with Type 1 diabetes which account for up to 90 per cent of all childhood diabetes cases and are insulin dependent. That this should strike at tender age is alarming to say the least.

Indian parents of different strata of society have been focusing on scholarly activities of their child so that they can become a doctor or an engineer without bothering about health of their wards. Most children unfortunately go undiagnosed of Type 1 diabetes and between 20 to 40 the Type 2 diabetes has struck with renewed vigour. Though no sharp jump in Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 is increasing, according to press reports.

Modern kids invariably are used to eating junk food thanks to advertisements in visual media. Junk food with high calories too difficult to burn. These per se may not be harmful but can aggravate coupled with inactivity resulting from lack of outdoor games leading to irreversible consequences. Most kids are engrossed in video games or indoor games like chess. Parents too seem indifferent. Studies show children under 15 are prone to Type 1 diabetes and when not properly controlled turning into Type 2. Nearly 80 per cent urban children don't exercise regularly and many prone to unhealthy eating habits. Of these 9 per cent adolescents between 9 and 18 have abnormal abdominal fat. In other words, there is huge stress on pancreas to produce enough insulin in converting the sugar into fat. Also, undue stress on pituitary gland – the master gland controlling our hormonal glands, including the thyroid and adrenals, ovaries and testicles – too comes under stress.

“Exercise regularly and control food intake” is a golden adage and not practised in the stress-filled world we live today. If one of our glands fails to function properly it has a spiralling effect on other organs that generate hormones and chemicals affecting message transmission from one cell to another that are through the bloodstream. These messages are vital to keep the body healthy.

Children suffer pituitary related problems and without sufficient hormones they suffer hypopituitarism. All these afflicts children and the malady is seen more in South India while north and northeast have seen both Type 1 & 2.

Invariably the catalyst that triggers diabetes in this stress-filled life is not excess consumption of sugar or overeating but the tension that afflicts a child as much as an adult. Too many things worry us. Even a child going to school senses danger seeing the burgeoning road traffic. Adults are no exception when it comes to coping with stress. Whether at home or office there is tension all around. As the tension builds up it results in anger leading to chemical changes in the body resulting in bad cholesterol or LDL. Tension is the enemy of HDL or good cholesterol. These chemical changes triggered early in life due to tension leave physical damage in its wake.

Tension is mother of multiple illness apart from diabetes. Many suffer “tension headaches” that is difficult to cure. The sufferer feels there is a tight band gripping his forehead. All medicines and even yoga proves fruitless. However, children getting diabetes is alarming to say the least. Population explosion – as India keeps adding one Australia every year –puts enormous pressure on land availability and public health. There are no suitable playgrounds and the situation is worsening. Schools built like pigeon holes hardly bother. Public health is a very serious issue and the Indian government – both Centre and state – need to be seized of this matter.

Diabetes unfortunately is irreversible being progressive in nature affecting from head to toe. A diabetic child or adult with high blood sugar struggles to produce insulin to neutralise excess sugar.

Sometimes insulin generated is of no use as factors like tension prevent body cells to respond suitably to utilise the insulin. Diabetes is like an arsonist who disturbs people watching a movie.

Type 1 diabetes in children is insulin dependent while Type 2 can lead to insulin resistance. Obesity is a complicating factor in children with a family history of diabetes.

Statistics show six crore people in India suffer from diabetes and the number fast rising and could touch 8 crores in another decade giving India dubious distinction of being 'Diabetes Capital' of the world.

Parents must take note of early warning signs in children. Excessive passing of urine, thirst or hunger needs immediate attention. If this is coupled with unexplained weight loss and frequent fatigue insulin deficiency could be the reason.

What Centre and state governments are doing is ignore diabetes -- a lifestyle disease -- leaving it to individuals themselves to sort it out. Often diagnosis is too late and at chronic stage brings in many complications. Vital organs like eyes and kidney are affected and damage is too late to reverse. This stage is seen between 20-40 years and this prime time of youth. Isn’t it the duty of the government of the day to take responsibility towards safeguarding public health?

Regrettably government agencies are not spending enough to create awareness among masses. While governments – Centre & state -- spend hundreds of crores on advertisements and election campaigns or staging grand political rallies not much is spent to save India from this debilitating disaster which is assuming alarming proportions. What is being missed is awareness at societal level. High time both society and government of the day realise time is fast running out. Promoting healthy lifestyle through social media and advertisement or other means is urgently called for. Even if a legislation is required, like the one UPA brought about on Disabilities Bill, it ought to be done soon to save India from impending disaster. Diabetes is a disability that needs special attention.

Age-old ethos of Indians too must change towards sports & games to tackle Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes. Emphasis must be laid on extra-curricular activities and children encouraged to participate in sports which is vital to our survival as a nation. Let sports be judged with the same weightage given to studies.

“Make in India” slogan of our dynamic Prime Minister Narendra Modi is barely enough to stave off diabetic disaster. We need a new mantra “Make India Healthy.” Determined effort can be made for healthy lifestyle. Let sports or yoga be the special focus.

With India’s population exploding there is intense pressure on open space to create playgrounds. Mushrooming schools add to the problem of health with children being crammed into classrooms. There has to be a conscious effort to regulate schools which openly ignore healthcare of kids. Curriculum needs to be changed to include health as a major option. This can teach what health is all about; how junk food be avoided and the importance of outdoor games for a better society.

India will do well to remember William Wordsworth: Child is the father of man. Ignoring children’s health means generations to come suffer swithout good health

Another aspect of sports is it is a great motivator. Apart from bestowing health it can teach good behaviour. All types of outdoor sport are important to us. From the time first human began walking the earth it led to natural progression. This is where yoga and myriad sports disciplines can fit in.

Studies have shown that children trained in sports and music can never indulge in violence. They can also stop violence in society. Sports help us to release our suppressed energies and embody good living a hallmark of civilized societies. Sports teach team work; living together in a feeling of oneness, and understanding each other better. Yes, interpersonal bonds and camaraderie is what sports bring. That is how we can create a better nation.