Friday, November 16, 2007

Childhood Diabetes and Race

Diabetes does not discriminate, but it appears that in the land of the free and the home of the brave a black child with diabetes is more likely to die from it than a white child. Check out this short piece in the Boston Globe:

By Emily Brown Bloomberg News / November 16, 2007

WASHINGTON - Death rates for black children with diabetes were twice as high as for white children during a 25-year period, possibly because of gaps in medical care and information, federal officials said.

Black youths living in poor areas may have limited access to medical services and lack quality disease education and healthcare, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

The CDC collected and analyzed data from 1979 to 2004 that included youngsters ages 1 to 19. They found that while diabetes is more common among white children, the death rate is highest among blacks. About 125,000 American children have diabetes.

"Incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing," the CDC said. "With proper management and access to care, morbidity and mortality from diabetes is preventable, particularly in the pediatric population."

Further research is needed to determine the cause of increased diabetes deaths among black youths, researchers said.

Other racial and ethnic groups were excluded because the numbers of deaths were too small to obtain reliable estimates, they said.

Medical expenses stemming from diabetes total $132 billion each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. Type 2 diabetes, which prevents cells from properly converting blood sugar into energy, has become more prevalent worldwide because of overeating and lack of exercise.

The disease can lead to blindness, kidney failure, or death, if left untreated.

In type 1 diabetes, the body doesn't produce the hormone insulin, which is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy.

In those with type 2, the most common form of the disease, the body can't produce enough insulin or use the insulin it makes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs mainly in adults ages 45 and older who are overweight.

Patients at risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their risk of developing the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight, the NIH says.

This type was formerly called adult-onset diabetes, until it became more common among children carrying extra weight.

I read these kinds of things all the time and it keeps bringing up the same basic issue; regardless of whether or not individuals are racist, as long as we live in a society where there is an association between a person's race and their quality of life, we have some work to do. Of course I'm sure some would argue that these black kids are dying because they are not as intelligent as the white kids, but that's for another post. Baha'u'llah put it best:

"How long will humanity persist in its waywardness? How long will injustice continue? How long is chaos and confusion to reign amongst men? How long will discord agitate the face of society?... The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective. I beseech God, exalted be His glory, that He may graciously awaken the peoples of the earth, may grant that the end of their conduct may be profitable unto them, and aid them to accomplish that which beseemeth their station."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 216)