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Palacio: How to combat the diabetes crisis among Hispanic Americans

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  • Written By: Diane Palacios
Palacio: How to combat the diabetes crisis among Hispanic Americans

When an individual has diabetes, blood sugar levels are above normal and the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should.

Sugar builds up in the blood and over time, can cause serious health problems including stroke, kidney failure, vision loss, and even amputation of a limb.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1, an autoimmune disorder that can only be treated with insulin replacement and Type 2, a non-insulin dependent diabetes that can be managed with diet and exercise.

In the last decade, the number of people living with diabetes climbed to an astonishing 34.2 million Americans (10.5% of the U.S. population), with 1 in 4 who don’t know they have it. According to researchers, 40% of people in the United States who have died from COVID-19 had type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Living with diabetes can place an enormous emotional, physical and financial burden on the entire family.

While diabetes can affect anyone, it is an especially serious and rapidly growing problem for Hispanic Americans. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic people are about 50% more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanics.

Preventing and/or managing diabetes can come down to household and cultural norms. Many Hispanic individuals put the needs of family first often to the detriment of their own health. Family and social responsibilities may also put prevention measures on the back burner.

As an integrated health care provider, Jewish Family & Children’s Service sees the positive effect of proactive care for detecting and managing diabetes in Hispanic populations. The organization also knows it’s critical that steps are taken to educate and encourage preventative screenings.

Behavior changes that are often required to manage diabetes take time and require special attention. Care coordination among providers such as primary care, endocrinologists and nutritionists is also critical so that a person’s symptoms, behavior, and cultural considerations are integrated into one care plan.

The Hispanic community has a rich culture, and food is often at the heart of it. Yet, food and competing cultural practices can impact your health if you are a diabetic.

Adjusting to a healthier diet can be difficult. Entire families need to understand how diabetes works and how food affects an individual’s health. Simple changes like choosing brown rice over white rice or whole grain tortillas instead of refined flour tortillas can make a huge difference.

Exercise is also a critical component of diabetic care. Parents need to encourage their children to exercise and participate in physical activities. When a child is affected, it is important that parents and kids work together.

Believing that education is key to breaking the barriers to care for this at-risk population, all Valley integrated health care centers of Jewish Family & Children’s Service provide Spanish-speaking health care professionals that offer therapy and primary care services for coordinating diabetes treatment.