African Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic minority groups suffer disproportionately from type 2 diabetes and its complications as compared to white Americans.
Factors contributing to the ethnic disparities in diabetes and its complications may be inherent (e.g., genetic, cultural, and language/communication) or acquired (e.g., those associated with changes in lifestyle and socioeconomic factors). In many minority communities, data from the National Minority Quality Forum’s U.S. Diabetes Index suggest that diabetes control, as defined by adherence to clinical standards, is even lower than the deplorable national statistics. For example, the Forum reports (2010 data) that almost 50% of patients with diabetes in a majority of these communities have an HbA1c over 7; 20% or more have an HbA1c above 8.
Healthcare interventions that take into consideration cultural and population-specific characteristics can reduce the prevalence, lack of diabetes control and its resulting complications. Implementing such strategies will require raising awareness and public education for patients and their providers, the creation of collaborative relationships between patients and their providers, better use of community resources and assistance for patients that help them make informed decisions about available options. Addressing these issues may help to decrease the ethnic disparities that currently exist in diabetes care.
Under the Forum’s leadership, the Minority Diabetes Coalition (MDC) has been created. Comprised of physicians and participants from minority health advocacy associations, the MDC will provide an authoritative source for defining the barriers associated with diabetes control in minorities and it will offer viable alternatives.
Strategically, the MDC, utilizing the Forum’s zip code level database on diabetes and comorbidities, will use a multi-media approach to coalesce the public, policymakers, public health advocates and other stakeholders around the problem of diabetes control. In so doing, a powerful voice will help to educate the public and promote change.