Dr. Ambika AshrafResearchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have recently discovered a rise in new-onset type 2 diabetes among Alabama youth during COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, they found that the increase in cases disproportionately affected Medicaid enrollees and males.

Their article, “Changes in Type 2 Diabetes Trends in Children and Adolescents During the COVID-19 Pandemic” published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Their study was a retrospective single-center medical record review from Children’s Hospital of AL, which cares for 90 percent of T2D pediatric patients. Researchers included patients from March 2017 – March 2021.

Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism Division Director and UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center Associate Director Ambika Ashraf, M.D., says that their research findings were made possible through collaboration between UAB and Children’s of Alabama.

“The collaboration between UAB and Children’s of Alabama is what has allowed us to uncover more information about rising type 2 diabetes rates and what effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on Alabama youth in that regard,” said Ashraf.

Other study authors include Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Assistant Professor Jessica Schmitt M.D., first author, Department of Health Policy and Organization Associate Professor David Becker, M.D., and Department of Health Policy and Organization Professor, Vice Chairperson of Research, and BCBS Endowed Chair in Economics Bisakha Sen, Ph.D., corresponding author.

At the start of the study, researchers aimed to examine what trends, if any, existed in new onset of pediatric type 2 diabetes (T2D), as well as the severity of cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through their methodology, researchers noticed that although proportion of patients with severity indicators like hospitalization rate, severity of obesity, and hemoglobin A1C remained similar to pre-COVID-19 measurements, there was a rise in new-onset T2D in Alabama’s youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Particularly, new-onset cases disproportionately affected Medicaid enrollees and males.

Authors note that it is not the first time T2D disparities have been discovered. In fact, existing literature has demonstrated T2D disparities regarding low-income and ethnic minority populations. While the collated data was illuminating, it left researchers with lingering questions about the pathways in which the pandemic impacted pediatric T2D.

“We look forward to further digging into the complexities of interactions between socioeconomic status and lifestyle disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ashraf. “These findings will lead us closer to being able to address disparities among pediatric patients with type 2 diabetes.”

To read the entire study and its methods, click here.