The Rise of Diabetes in U.S. Latinos

Amy Tenderich Health Guide
  • Reprinted with permission from Amy Tenderich of

    Many Latinos come to America for the promise of a better life. While they may gain new possessions and freedoms, recent reports also show that this new life has a downside: damaging their health. The American diet of carb-rich, fat-rich, supersized foods is not doing them any good; the rising instance of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes among the Latino population here is a growing cause of concern. And so many of them remain without health insurance...

    This news caught my eye because:
    1) I grew up in Southern California, where the issue of Mexicans charging the border was part of our daily lives (lots of them were being hit by vehicles as they tried to run across a US highway to make it to America). We always assumed their native diet was overly starchy and fatty and devoid of valuable nutrients. Now it seems that description fits food on this side of the border better.
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    2) As I noted when I moved back to America from Europe a few years ago, food here is over-abundant and excessively large. Notice how today's muffins are the size of at least 3 of what we called muffins 5 or 10 years ago? Notice how every event in America is accompanied by either people schlepping copious containers of sweets, starchy salt-stuffs and other "snacks" or concession stands selling overpriced mass quantities of same? Even hotel rooms now throw junk food in your face, with mini-bars chock full of "economy size" candies.

    Recent data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) show that the Latino community is developing diabetes at twice the rate of the general population.

    Luckily, there's a lot of buzz about this issue -- generated by a number of organizations, media and corporations working to "break down the health barriers," i.e. provide the Latino community the education, treatment and access to health insurance coverage they need. A few programs, which I thought were interesting, include:

    * U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MiPirámide Spanish-language online guide, which helps Latinos make healthful food choices. The interactive Web site lets users type in personal data to calculate their suggested daily menu and calorie consumption.

    * The Neighborhood marketing company focuses on Latino education and marketing for the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries (created a campaign for Sanofi-Aventis).

    * The Diabetes: ¡Infórmate! campaign from Novo Nordisk targeted the 2 million U.S. Hispanics over age 20 affected by the deadly disease.

    * Latino Center for Medical Education and Research in the San Jaoquin Valley, CA, is reaching out to diabetic and at-risk teens with afterschool programs and a video.

    * The National Alliance for Hispanic Health is helping to promote health fairs all over the country.

    This activity seems a nice example of the good that can result from community-corporate cooperation: healthy, informed consumers are better consumers, after all.
Published On: May 28, 2006