Advocates Spotlight Diabetes Among Asian and Pacific Islander Americans
In the first conference of its kind, the American Diabetes Association teamed up with the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians (NCAPIP) and other member organizations of the Asian American, Native Hawai'ian, and Pacific Islanders Diabetes Coalition for the State of the Science Conference 2011, a call to action regarding diabetes in these ethnic communities.
The conference, held September 29 and 30 in Honolulu, was designed as a symposium for health care professionals, advocates, and others to discuss diabetes prevention, treatment, and management in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) populations. These groups are at 1.6 times the risk of developing diabetes compared with the general U.S. population. "This terrific collaboration between NCAPIP and the American Diabetes Association is central to the Association's goal of focusing our scientific, advocacy, and educational efforts on those communities that are most impacted by this devastating disease," says John W. Griffin, Jr., the ADA's board chair.
The hope is that by raising awareness of diabetes within communities, both health care providers and people with diabetes will have a better understanding of the disease, says conference co-chair George King, MD. "Unlike some other common diseases that especially affect the AANHPI population, diabetes is a relatively new disease to that population, so the knowledge base is fairly shallow for everybody," says King, who is chief scientific officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "We need to really pay attention to it and do
something about it."
Topics covered at the conference included raising awareness in different ethnic communities, collaborating in care, and recognizing biological differences that could lead to problems in treatment. While Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders share common risk factors for diabetes, there are differences among them. For example, King says, Asian Americans are typically at risk for type 2 diabetes at a lower body mass index (and Pacific Islanders at a higher BMI) than whites are. King adds that doctors and patients need to know things like this in order to assess risks.
The conference addressed cultural issues as well. Jennifer Puryear, the ADA's director of youth, prevention, and new patient initiatives, says, "Whether it's about not being a burden to their family or not wanting to admit to having a chronic disease, many Asian Americans hide their diabetes and don't want to manage it, which can lead to complications. We want to start changing that perception."
For more information about diabetes in Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, visit diabetes.org/asianamerican.