Survey Shows Hispanics Lack Important Information About Diabetes

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A new survey reveals that many Hispanics are aware that diabetes is dangerous, but compared to non-Hispanics, they are poorly informed about how to best treat the disease. The survey may reveal ways to enact more effective communication tools to better inform Hispanics about improving their diabetes care.

“The striking bit of news from our survey is that while many Hispanics know diabetes is a problem within their community and are worried about it, most did not know the key steps to managing diabetes, according to Dr. Janet L Delgado, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

Additionally, the survey showed that compared to non-Hispanic blacks and whites with diabetes, Hispanics with diabetes are more likely to be worried that, besides themselves, someone in their family would develop diabetes.

The findings of the survey are crucial because Hispanics are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanics to develop diabetes, Delgado says.

Among the specific findings of the survey, which interviewed 770 Hispanics age 18 and older by phone, were:

  • Hispanic respondents were less likely to believe a person can live a healthy life with diabetes (86 percent of those with diabetes compared to 96 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 89 percent of non-Hispanic blacks with diabetes);
  • 73 percent of Hispanics with diabetes could name a cause* of diabetes; however, this rate was lower than for non-Hispanic whites (89 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (83 percent)
  • Although almost all Hispanic respondents with diabetes reported a person with diabetes can take actions to control their disease (98 percent), some key disease management practices were identified by less than half of those surveyed, including being physically active (30 percent); taking prescribed medication (37 percent); maintaining a healthy weight (6 percent); and monitoring blood sugar (3 percent).

The survey was conducted by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, a science-based nonprofit organization that since 1973 has focused on improving the health and well being of Hispanic Americans. Support for the survey was provided by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (BIPI) and Eli Lilly and Company as a way to help identify opportunities to provide information and support for the estimated 3.2 million Hispanics in the United States who have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Delgado says the survey raises awareness that there is an information gap when it comes to effectively informing Hispanics about how to properly and effectively treat and manage diabetes.

“Anecdotally, even though most Hispanics are worried about diabetes they do not have the skills or tools to make their concerns actionable to treat their condition,” according to Lorena Drago, a certified dietician and certified diabetes educator who works with Hispanics. “It’s mostly about culture and how their culture impacts their attitudes toward healthcare.”

For instance, Drago points out that Hispanics are generally more concerned that family members might have diabetes rather than whether they have diabetes because family tends to be culturally more important to Hispanics than non-Hispanics.

There are other cultural reasons why Hispanics with diabetes generally lack the proper tools to take better care of themselves, according to Delgado. She was surprised to discover that many of the messages about diabetes prevention that stress the dangers of suffering from diabetic complications, such as kidney failure and glaucoma, more often repelled Hispanics than motivated them to take better care of themselves if they already had diabetes.

“What this survey shows us is that Hispanics are not getting the information they need, or they’re getting it and not following it,” she says. “It informs us that we need to communicate in more effective ways.”

Further complicating the issue of how to effectively communicate the need for better care is that not all Hispanics are from a single culture. Fifty percent of Hispanics in the United States are from Mexico, Drago says, while forty percent are from other countries.

“A Hispanic is not a Hispanic is not a Hispanic,” says Dr. Luis Salmun, Executive Director of Health Services Executives at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., who partnered with the National Alliance for Hispanic Health in conducting the survey. “They are a diverse group of cultures and people and as such, they need messages specially tailored for different cross sections of the population.”

Salmun says while the survey will assist in helping to better understand Hispanics and their relationship to diabetes so better communications can be crafted, it’s only a step—and a rare step at that.

“When it comes to Hispanics and diabetes, there isn’t much data out there,” he says. “We know the rate of diabetes is higher in Hispanics than in non-Hispanics, but we don’t know much more than that.”

Delgado agrees, and points out that it was only in 1989 that the national model for a death certificate initiated a designation for Hispanics under race.

“We all need to have a commitment to gaining a better understanding of Hispanics and diabetes so we can better educate the Hispanic community on how to properly take care of themselves,” Salmun says. “It’s the right thing to do.”

*Obesity can be a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes

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