Why Is Diabetes Improving For Whites, But Not For Blacks?

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A close-up of fingers and a diabetic blood sugar test

First the bad news: The percentage of Americans with diabetes has doubled since 1988, with nearly one in 10 adults now diagnosed with the blood-sugar disease, according to a new study.

“Diabetes has increased dramatically. The rates have almost doubled since the late ’80s and early ’90s,” said Elizabeth Selvin, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore.

However, the news only gets worse (depending on the color of your skin): researchers have also found that while some aspects of diabetes management are improving for whites, none of these gains are being seen for blacks. Experts say that this finding suggests that more public health dollars need to be directed towards minority communities to help prevent the disease, raise awareness about the disease, and to help increase access to medical treatment.

“This study also highlights that the increase in diabetes really tracks closely with the epidemic of obesity. The diabetes epidemic is really a direct consequence of the rise in obesity,” Selvin said.

Poorly controlled diabetes poses serious health risks, including heart disease, kidney damage and blindness.

For the new study, the researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which included more than 43,000 adults followed from the first survey period (1988 to 1994) to the most recent (1999 to 2010).

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