Help Arrives For Children with Diabetes in the Salinas Valley

new pediatric diabetes center will open in Salinas on February 2, providing greater access to necessary care.  Photo: Thinkstock

This is the second story in a two-part series on living with diabetes on California’s Central Coast. Click here to read Part 1. 

For children in the Salinas Valley with diabetes, seeing a specialist can involve long wait times or many miles in the car.

That means some children simply go without care.

But beginning this week, UCSF Medical Center and Salinas Memorial Healthcare System will give these children another option.

The two hospitals will open a new pediatric diabetes center in Salinas on Friday. The Madison Clinic for Pediatric Diabetes aims to reduce the need for children with diabetes to travel to San Francisco or the East Bay Area to be seen by pediatric endocrinologists.

The new center is also designed to let children with diabetes get to know one another, thereby curbing some of the isolation that they can experience because of the disease.

“I’ll have a chance to meet more Type 1 kids and we’re not going to be in the car that long anymore,” said 10-year-old Quinn Lockwood, who lives in the Pajaro Valley.

His mother Kathleen Lockwood said the center “is a huge thing for us” because it will reduce the travel time and make access to care easier.

“Right now, there’s not a practicing pediatric endocrinologist within an hour of Monterey County in any direction,” she said.

The new pediatric center will be located inside the existing Diabetes and Endocrine Center at 355 Abbott St. in Salinas.

UCSF previously opened the Madison Center adjacent to its Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco’s Mission Bay in 2012 to provide advanced juvenile diabetes research and care.

Expanding to Salinas made sense because there is a need, said Saleh Adi, a UCSF endocrinologist, juvenile diabetes researcher, and the Madison’s facility medical director. Salinas is Monterey County’s largest city.

“It’s a unique opportunity to extend our services to a great but underserved community,” he said.

Diabetes is a chronic disease involving how the body manages blood sugar or glucose. It is manifested generally in one of two ways: Type 1, where the pancreas produces little or no insulin, and Type 2, where the pancreas does produce some insulin but not enough to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.

Diabetes that is not properly managed can lead to the amputation of limbs, the loss of eyesight, organ failure, coma and death.

In a 2015-16 California Health Survey by the UCLA Center for Health Policy, Monterey County had a higher rates of diabetes than the statewide average.

The survey showed that 57 percent of the adult population in Monterey County had diabetes or pre-diabetes. Statewide, the average was 55 percent. 

About 13.8 percent of Monterey County Latinos reported being diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 4.8 percent of whites and 4.4 percent of Asians.

According to a news analysis from UCLA, the study estimates that statewide 46 percent of adults—13 million people—have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. Another 2.5 million adults in California, have already been diagnosed with diabetes. Together, that represents 15.5 million people, or 55 percent of the state’s population.

A significant part of that affected population are farmworkers, according to Patrick J. Pine, chief administrative officer for the United Farm Workers’ Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan, which represents about 11,000 California farmworkers and their dependents.

“A large part of our membership live and work on the Central Coast so having this facility in Salinas will be important,” he said.

Pine said that the cost of providing medical care in Central California is higher than in other areas of the state because it’s often difficult to recruit doctors to live and work in the area.

Diabetes is the dominant, most expensive health issue faced by the union’s membership, Pine added.

“Diabetes drugs represent 60 percent of what we spend on prescription drugs each year. That should give you an idea of the scope of the problem,” he said.

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