Why visiting the doctor isn’t helping Latinas at-risk for diabetes

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    Latinas have a rich culture.

    Latinas who are at-risk for diabetes may not be told by their doctor. (Shutterstock)

    Experts indicate there may be more standing in the way of proper diabetes care, between at-risk Latinas and their doctors.

    A number of hurdles have traditionally stood before Latinas when it comes to medical treatment, with access to care and language barriers usually top on the list of why illnesses aren’t addressed promptly.

    Now new data released from the study “Latinas with Elevated Fasting Plasma Glucose: An Analysis Using NHANES 2009-2010 Data,” revealed that while approximately 5.5 million Latinas suffer from elevated fasting plasma glucose (FPG), a risk factor for diabetes, 4 million of those women were never told by a doctor they were at risk for diabetes, pre-diabetes, or were borderline for diabetes.

    What’s more, of those 4 million Latinas who were unaware of their risk factor, approximately 1 million were not seeking regular follow-up care with their provider, leaving them at an increased risk for developing diabetes and not being aware of it.

    “Almost 1 million of these 4 million Latinas had not seen a doctor or other healthcare provider in the past 12 months,” stated lead researcher Dr. Shiela M. Strauss,  in a press release. “This is of particular concern as it eliminates a potential opportunity for them to learn about their diabetes risk and their elevated FPG before it causes serious avoidable harm.”

    Strauss is an  associate professor at the New York University College of Nursing.

    Fasting plasma glucose is one of the primary screening methods for diabetes, and Health Central indicates the test is typically run after 8 hours of fasting. Individuals with FPG levels less than 100 mg/dL are considered normal, with 100-125 mg/dL suggesting pre-diabetes, and 125 mg/dL FPG indicative of established type 2 diabetes.

    “In addition to our finding regarding lower health care utilization for Latina women, the finding that the majority of women with elevated FPG levels who had not been told they were at risk, even among those with higher levels of contact with a health care provider, indicates the urgent need to incorporate diabetes screening and culturally competent care across a broader range of health care visits,” said Sherry Deren, Ph.D., Director, CDUHR and Senior Research Scientist, College of Nursing, a co-author on the study.

    “Incorporating this assessment as part of most (if not all) health care visits is likely to increase the early identification of women who are at risk for diabetes.”

    Researchers indicate the limited doctor discussion regarding diabetes among Latinas with elevated FPG is taking away the opportunity those women have to prevent diabetes. These Latinas have passed through the other hurdles present and made it to their physician; they have done the tests and have received a potentially life-changing result; however, for some reason they are not being informed of what their test results mean.

    Laboratory work can be expensive.

    A blood test is all it takes to warn of pre-diabetes, but the results have to be relayed to the patient. (Shutterstock)

    This is particularly concerning for Latinas because of their high rate of diabetes; the Office of Minority Health indicates both male and female Hispanics are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites and 1.5 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.

    “With the proportion of Latinas with diabetes expected to rise dramatically, there is an urgent need for increased efforts to enhance use of traditional health services by Latinas, and to develop alternate sites for diabetes screening,” Dr. Helene D. Clayton-Jeter,  a co-author on the study, stated in the press release.

    Clayton-Jeter added the findings indicate a critical need for effective strategies that are “considerate of culture and language preferences, including case management, extended follow-up care, and a team approach for supporting Latinas and others with pre-diabetes and diabetes in order to respond to an increasingly serious public health threat.”

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