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Opinion | Michigan must address high diabetes rates among Hispanics

Michigan ranks 15th among states for the highest percentage of people with diabetes. Around 12.1 percent of Michigan residents currently have Type II diabetes and this number has been increasing over time.

Hana M. Al'Absi
Hana M. Al'Absi is a masters of public health student at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The rates of diabetes are much higher among racial and ethnic minorities —  especially in Wayne County. In Michigan’s most populous county, Hispanic/Latinx individuals are around 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes than their White counterparts.

At the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, much of my research has been based in Michigan. The diabetes disparities I’ve seen in Michigan have led me to research the increasing inequity caused by many factors, including local food deserts and lack of Medicaid coverage for Continuous Glucose Monitors for people with Type II diabetes.  

Although there is limited data on how many people currently have diabetes in Wayne County, estimates are that, among 1.8 million Michiganders residing there, around 108,000 have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes

This number increases each year as 6,000 more people are diagnosed with diabetes. There are currently around 28,000 individuals in Michigan with diabetes who are unaware of it. Around 608,000 individuals are prediabetic with heightened blood glucose levels. Although they make up only 5 percent of Michigan's population, 12.6 percent of the people with diabetes in Michigan are Hispanic/Latinx adults, or around 115,000 people.  

Lack of affordable healthy food options in low-income communities, known as food deserts, have greatly contributed to the disparities in rates of diabetes. Wayne County is home to a large food desert. Most local residents struggle to find healthy food options or close grocery stores. This can increase the rate of obesity, which may lead to an individual becoming prediabetic or diabetic. In a study examining the effects of SES on diabetes, researchers found that males and females were 94 percent and 175 percent, respectively, more likely to experience diabetes if they were low-income individuals. In the state of Michigan, 23 percernt of Hispanic/Latinx residents live in poverty, compared to 12 percent of White residents. 

Continuous Glucose Monitors have become an increasingly helpful tool to monitor glucose levels for individuals with diabetes and those who are prediabetic. Those monitors are not always an affordable option. Most brands charge monthly fees for a prescription in addition to the cost of a receiver (which costs up to $700).

The Diabetes Prevention and Control Program (DPCP) at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has emphasized the importance of reducing rates of diabetes among Hispanic/Latinx adults and eliminating health disparities. Providing equitable medical and preventative care can start with supporting the Diabetes Prevention Program, expanding the Medicaid program at a state-level, or funding local farmers markets. The Diabetes Improvement Plan 2021-2025 highlights the necessary steps needed in order to address, prevent, and reduce the high rates of diabetes among racial and ethnic minorities in Michigan. 

In order to make certain there are positive changes in diabetes prevention in the future, a plan for change must be made now. 

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