Texas’ Rio Grande Valley Region Has High Diabetes Rate; Large Hispanic Population Considered Contributing Factor
The Rio Grande Valley region in Texas has a diabetes rate of about three times the national rate, officials said on Monday at an event in McAllen, Texas, the McAllen Monitor reports. The event was sponsored by the American Diabetes Association.
According to George Huntley, chair-elect of ADA's board of directors, the high number of Hispanics in the area makes the Valley "one of the bigger pockets" in the U.S. in which diabetes rates are high. He said Hispanics, American Indians and blacks have a higher prevalence of the disease than other ethnic groups. Texas state Sen. Eddie Lucio (D) said as many as half of minority youth across the nation will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. "Being that we are a minority majority community, one in two is a very scary thing," Lucio said. Nationwide, about 8% of people have diabetes, according to Huntley.
In the Rio Grande Valley, medical and indirect costs associated with diabetes totaled $1.5 billion in 2007, while such costs were $174 billion nationally in the same year, according to the Monitor.
Victor Gonzalez, founder of the Valley Retina Institute, said lack of access to stores with healthy food options is part of the problem for rural residents in the Valley. Huntley suggested that people improve their eating and exercise habits to address the issue. He also said zoning laws restricting the number of fast-food restaurants and bans on trans fats, as well as requiring caloric counts on menus, would help.
He noted that while about $400 million was spent in the U.S. in 2007 for research on diabetes, "We still need to do better," adding, "The problem is really ballooning now" (Taylor, McAllen Monitor, 8/18).