Diabetes Tops List of Latino Health Concerns

Diabetes cited as biggest family health problem by one in five Latinos

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Latinos are at a particularly high risk of developing diabetes, and it seems the condition is a large concern for this group.

Although diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among Latinos in the US, diabetes was the top health concern among Latino families, according to a new poll.

This poll also revealed that Latinos were concerned about their ability to afford treatment for serious health problems like diabetes.

"Eat healthier and exercise regularly to lower diabetes risk."

Compared to non-Hispanic white adults, Hispanic adults are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes by a doctor and 1.5 times more likely to die from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Robert J. Blendon, ScD, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and fellow scientists surveyed 1,478 Latinos, age 18 and older, as part of an ongoing series of polls developed by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Public Radio (NPR).

Almost 20 percent of those interviewed said that diabetes was the most significant health issue facing their families. Cancer came in as the number-two biggest health problem, cited by 5 percent of the Latinos polled.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the US, according to the CDC, followed by cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Dr. Blendon said that the results were surprising because Latinos in previous polls have indicated cancer as the biggest health problem facing the country.

The CDC has reported that diabetes tends to strike Latinos at younger ages compared to non-Hispanic whites, and that diabetes rates are more than double for Latinos who are obese compared to those who are not.

Studies have shown that obesity rates among Hispanics tend to go up the longer they live in the US. Although some research has suggested that lifestyle changes in America (including eating unhealthy foods) may be to blame, Latino immigrants overall did not think they were following poor eating habits in the US, according to this poll. About four in 10 said their diet was healthier in the US, and a similar number said it was about as healthy as their pre-immigration diet.

Latinos were also concerned about being able to afford treatment for diabetes and other significant health problems. Just over half of all surveyed said they were not confident that they would have enough money or health insurance to pay for a major illness.

To help prevent diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends cutting calories, reducing fat intake (especially saturated fat), eating omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flax seed oil and walnuts, limiting carbohydrates, consuming high-fiber foods and limiting alcohol consumption.

The results of this poll were released in January.

Review Date: 
January 27, 2014
Last Updated:
January 28, 2014