Diabetes Increasingly Affecting Boston Black, Asian Communities, Genetics Might Be Factor
The Boston Globe on Dec. 3 and Sunday published a two-part series focusing on the increasing rates of type 2 diabetes among minorities living in Boston, which has a large population of blacks and Asian immigrants. Summaries appear below.
- "A Quiet Epidemic": Diabetes has been among the top five killers of blacks in Boston since 2002, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. Five of the city's community health centers are using a $5 million grant to help patients manage and prevent the disease. Centers will offer group medical visits, cooking classes, outreach workers and a "Diabetes Tune-Up Day," where patients can receive diagnostic tests and receive nutrition and exercise information. The reason why blacks in Boston seem disproportionately affected by diabetes is unclear, but experts say they are more likely than any other group to be overweight or obese. Still, blacks with a healthy weight are more than twice as likely as whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to the commission. Enrique Caballero, an endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center and director of the center's Latino Diabetes Initiative, said, "There is a genetic tendency to have insulin resistance among minority populations" (Burge, Boston Globe, 12/3).
- "Diabetes Afflicting More in U.S. Asian Population": Some doctors believe that the number of diabetes diagnoses among Asians is increasing faster than among any other racial or ethnic group nationwide, the Globe reports. William Hsu, co-director of Joslin's Asian American Diabetes Initiative, estimates that at least 10% of adult Asians have diabetes, compared with 7% of the general population, according to CDC. Some doctors believe that Asian's genetic heritage might predispose them to diabetes, even more so than blacks and Hispanics. In addition, treatment for Asians -- who are not united by a single language -- is difficult because of cultural and language barriers, according to the Globe. Asians also do not usually show the traditional signs of diabetes, such as excess weight and obesity, according to the Globe. At the Dorchester House Community Health Center -- where nearly one-third of all patients are Vietnamese -- and four other community centers, management, nutrition and exercise classes are being offered to Asian patients through the $5 million grant (Burge, Boston Globe, 12/10).