The Many Faces of Diabetes in America
The American culture is changing. Meat, potatoes and apple pie used to be thought of as American food. With so many ethnic groups growing in the United States, they bring their cultures with them—and this includes their ways of eating.
You may wonder what this has to do with diabetes. The answer is: a lot. Diabetes is on the rise in America, and it’s growing more in certain ethnic groups than in Caucasian Americans.
CULTURE AND ETHNICITY
Culture is defined as the behaviors and beliefs that are characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or age group. Each ethnic group has its own culturally-based foods, habits, customs, languages and more. Managing diabetes has so much to do with lifestyle. It’s important that you know how to balance your culture with your diabetes management.
To get the best results from your healthcare team, it is important that you are not only able to talk to one another, but can understand each other, as well.
- If you don’t speak the same language: Bring a family member or a friend to your visit who is able to speak both languages and can translate for you. If you don’t have someone like this, ask your healthcare team to provide a translator. Also ask for written information in your language.
- If your culture is different: Tell your healthcare team about the foods you eat, your habits, your celebrations and your religious holidays. Let them know as much about you and your lifestyle as you can, so together, you can come up with a plan that works for you.
DON’T GIVE UP
If you have tried the above methods and don’t feel like you and your culture are being considered, you may need to look for a healthcare team that better understands you. With the growth of ethnic groups in America, there is most likely a healthcare team that understands or shares your culture. Ask people in your community, call your local hospital, or see if there is an organization that represents your ethnic group. You can also search online at www.diabeteseducator.org or www.diabetes.org for more information.
DIABETES IN AMERICA—WHO HAS IT?
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that approximately 25.8 million American children and adults, which is about 8.3% of the population, have diabetes. And at least 11.3% of Americans, ages 20 years and older, have diabetes.
Below are the percentages of these Americans, 20 years and older with diabetes, broken down by race and ethnicity (according to a 2007–2009 national survey):
Non-Hispanic whites: 7.1%
Non-Hispanic blacks: 12.6%
Puerto Ricans: 13.8%
Your culture is a part of who you are. But if your background puts you at higher risk for diabetes, work with your healthcare provider to make good lifestyle choices, including a healthy diet and exercise, so that you can live your life to the fullest.