“What the health community has noticed in the Latino community is that as their diets become more “Americanized” – fast-food, larger portion sizes and more processed foods - they begin to suffer more health problems like diabetes,” said Dr. Jorge Calles Escandon, an endocrinologist in Cleveland, Ohio.
Those unhealthy eating habits are leading to high rates of obesity in the Latino community, which makes them more at risk of becoming diabetic, he said.
“More than 60 percent of Mexican-Americans, who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in Ohio, have already had amputations, are on dialysis and suffer from blindness,” Dr. Calles said during a presentation at a Latino health forum held at MetroHealth Care in Cleveland on Oct. 9, 2014. “This disease is especially devastating in the Mexican-American community.”
Health officials in Lucas County and Cleveland are taking a leading role in addressing the problem by creating more educational programs and enlisting the aid of Latino organizations to encourage more people to eat healthier, exercise more and become better acquainted with early signs of diabetes.
Those efforts are especially important because Latinos genetically are more predisposed to suffering from diabetes, health experts like Dr. Calles said.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugars, starches, and other food into energy.
Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes include: fatigue, increased thirst, urination, hunger, and blurred vision. Diabetes can lead to serious complications like blindness, kidney damage, cardiovascular disease, and lower-limb amputations.
“A large number of low-income Latino/Hispanic men and women in Lucas County area lack the basic knowledge of diabetes and how to take preventive actions,” said Linda Parra, president of Nuestra Gente Community Projects, Inc., a Toledo-based organization that provides diabetes education programming in Spanish.
There are many problems that the Latino community faces when it comes to addressing diabetes, Ms. Parra said, including:
• Insufficient number of bilingual, bicultural health personnel to address the burden of diabetes in the Latino populations.
• High prevalence of sedentary lifestyle among Latinos.
• According to Healthy Ohio Community Profiles the Estimated Prevalence (Percent) of Diabetes Management Practices among Lucas County Adult Residents with Comparison to Ohio and the United States, 2004-2007. Of the Lucas County adult residents with diabetes, 86.7 percent visits a doctor yearly, 65.3 percent monitor their blood glucose levels daily, and 69.7 percent check their feet daily. During 2004-2007, diabetes killed an average of 185 people in Lucas County each year. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. In Lucas County, individuals age 65 and older, had the highest diabetes mortality rate compared to all other ages groups, with a rate of 262.4 per 100,000.
• Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in Ohio in 2008.
• There is a higher prevalence of diabetes occurring with the Latino population at a rate of 13.2 percent in comparison with the Caucasian, non-Latino 9.9% and the black, non-Latino 12.7 percent and other 7 percent.
Nuestra Gente’s Diabetes Support Program provides free health screenings and free blood sugar tests. The program also provides free transportation to doctor appointments and will assist in translating for Spanish-speaking patients, said Ms. Parra.
For more information about the program visit the organization’s website at: www.nuestragentecommunityprojects.org
Adelante, Inc. offers educational programming through its Nosotras program, which provides prenatal care classes for soon-to-be mothers.
“Latinas have a higher propensity to become diabetic during pregnancy; it’s in our genetics,” said Wendy Avila, program coordinator for Nosotras. “Puerto Rican women are at the greatest risk and then Mexican-Americans.
Prenatal classes address issues like how diabetes can affect the birth of a child, the different stages of pregnancy, and why it’s necessary to visit a family doctor regularly during pregnancy, Ms. Avila said.
Many times women who work as farmworkers don’t visit the doctor as often as they should because they lack transportation and don’t understand that it’s important to continuously monitor the health of the baby and mother during the pregnancy, she said. Pregnant women should be tested during their fourth week of pregnancy and again after 24 weeks.
“I’ve seen farmworkers who wait until their 9th month before going to see a doctor,” said Ms. Avila. “There’s more to it than just weighing and measuring the baby.”
Nosotras classes include nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and discussion of prenatal development, stretching techniques to ease lower back pain and what symptoms they should be feeling. Staff also provides free transportation to and from classes, doctor visits and include pre-visits to the hospital so that women know which entrance to go to when it’s time to deliver.
Classes meet 10 to 11:30 a.m. every Monday at Adelante, Inc., which is located at 520 Broadway Street in Toledo. Appointments for other times can be scheduled by calling Ms. Avila at (419) 244-8440, extension 219.
On the Internet: https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2014/101714/health.htm