Diabetes and Asian Pacific American Heritage
Volunteer Wilfred Fujimoto, MD, uses research and outreach for type 2 prevention
Excess fat is linked to type 2 diabetes, but in Asian and Pacific Islander populations at great risk for diabetes, such fat may not be easy to see. Researcher and volunteer Wilfred Fujimoto, MD, studies how diabetes manifests itself in people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. He hopes this knowledge and outreach efforts by the American Diabetes Association will help stem the ever increasing number of cases of type 2 diabetes in Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities.
Fujimoto, of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, is a retired professor of medicine at the University of Washington and a visiting professor at the Jichi Medical University Saitama Medical Center near Tokyo. He’s also a member of the ADA’s Asian Pacific American Diabetes Action Council and on the advisory board of the ADA’s Hawaii office. Fujimoto continues to work on data he collected as part of the Seattle Japanese-American Community Diabetes Study, which looked at the prevalence of diabetes and related conditions in Japanese American families from 1981 to 2001. In that time, the rate of type 2 diabetes increased among Japanese Americans, while staying relatively low among people living in Japan.
Fujimoto’s work with his colleagues showed that even at a relatively low weight and body mass index (BMI, a rough measure of body fat in adults based on a ratio of weight to height), people of Japanese descent who carried more fat in their abdomen—fat around the organs that could be seen only by a computed tomography, or CT, scan—were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. “It’s probably due to environmental factors [of] living in the U.S. rather than Japan,” Fujimoto says.
Providing people across all ethnic groups with culturally competent information (such as giving healthy recipes for traditional foods or using people’s first languages in printed items) can help them prevent and treat diabetes. That’s why Fujimoto says he continues to volunteer with the ADA and encourages others to do the same. “There’s a level for everyone,” he says, “but if you don’t volunteer, you don’t know what you can contribute!”
Celebrate AANHPI Heritage
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Learn more about the ADA’s AANHPI resources, including a Korean translation of the Diabetes Risk Test, at diabetes.org/aanhpi.
Share Your Skills
The ADA welcomes your talents and interests as a volunteer. Visit the Volunteer Center to find out how to get involved: diabetes.org/volunteer.