Treating the 2.5 Million Diabetic Latinos in the U.S.

Within the United States, there are over 2.5 million Latino Americans suffering with type II diabetes mellitus.  This is alarming, not only because Latinos are 17% more likely to develop diabetes than their white counterparts, but also because Hispanic women are 1.5 times more likely to die from diabetes than white woman.  The lack of health care coverage in Latino communities only makes the diabetes epidemic more prevalent.

Contributing Causes of Diabetes

In the Latino community there are many contributing factors to the causes of type II diabetes mellitus.  One of the biggest determinants of whether someone is diagnosed with diabetes is based upon the foods they eat.  Latinos historically have a very high-carbohydrate diet consisting of breads, pasta and rice and other complex carbohydrates.  Latinos in the United States on average tend to eat more processed foods and fast food than Caucasian.  Unhealthy dietary choices increase weight, which in turn increases the likelihood of diabetes onset.

Cultural Differences

Additionally, there are cultural nuances associated with food that contribute to the propensity of diabetes in Latinos.  While there are many subgroups within the Latino community, many of these cultures are very family oriented and view food as a means to interact with friends and family.  In some cases, it is even considered rude for a family member to turn down food offered to them.  This makes eating healthy even more difficult for fear of offending family members and creating conflicts or unwanted attention in intimate settings.

The Importance of Health Care

It is of extreme importance that Latio diabetics visit a physician in order receive a diagnosis of diabetes and subsequent care and follow up.  However, oftentimes the clinician-patient experience can present a problem.  While clear communication is necessary and one of the most important factors as it relates to medication compliance, Latino patients tend to experience the highest levels of miscommunication during hospital visits due to linguistic and cultural barriers.  The information disseminated to Spanish-speaking patients needs to be not only readable in their native language, but also understandable from a wording standpoint by the patient. In order for patients to understand the causes of their disease and the ways to start making healthier lifestyle and diet choices, it is imperative that patients be presented with literature that is not only easily accessible to them, but easy to understand as well.  Many industry stakeholders recommend that health literature be at a third grade level.

Latino diabetics tend to live with comorbidities such as hypertension and high cholesterol. Additionally, eye problems also occur frequently within the Latino community, as there is an 84% chance of developing diabetic retinopathy for Latino diabetics. Effective treatments should address cultural and linguistic barriers while encouraging regularly checking blood sugar and medication adherence.

 

Sources:

  1. CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/hispanic-diabetes.html
  2. Illinois Dept of Public Health: http://www.idph.state.il.us/idhp/idhp_HispanicRiskForDiabetes.htm
  3. OMH article: https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=63

AADE:  https://www.diabeteseducator.org/news/perspectives/aade-blog-details/aade-perspectives-on-diabetes-care/2017/10/05/understanding-diversity-in-the-hispanic-community