Latinos fight against diabetes

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To learn more about the diabetes education program, call 404-616-5181.

As the Hispanic population continues to grow in the United States, so too does the incidence of health concerns characteristic of this demographic.

Diabetes is one of the most common conditions to afflict Hispanic adults, with 12.8 percent of the population affected by this disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This comes in slightly below the number of African-Americans with diabetes, 13.2 percent, but above the Caucasian population, at 7.6 percent.

Among the reasons for this, according to endocrinologist Guillermo Umpierrez, is that “Latinos don’t have good metabolic control, which increases the risk of them having complications.” Umpierrez attributes this to a general lack of education in the Hispanic community regarding the importance of a balanced diet and exercise.

He also believes there is “a problem with access to health care.”

“Not everyone goes to the right place or receives the right treatment, because many don’t have health insurance and on top of all this immigrants who come to this country quickly get used a fast-food diet and gain a considerable amount of weight in a period of between 5 to 10 years,” said Umpierrez, who is a professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipids at Emory University School of Medicine. He also is chief of diabetes and endocrinology at Grady Memorial Hospital.

“There is a lot we have to do in the Latino community with regards to diabetes care. We must work to reduce the significant increase in complications with vision, leg amputations and renal failure, which leads to dialysis,” he added.

To further that effort, eight years ago the Emory-Grady diabetes team, led by Umpierrez, created the Emory Latino Diabetes Education Program, an initiative that seeks “to provide much-needed education and support to the underserved Latino population” in metro Atlanta.

“At Emory University we realized there wasn’t a free education program in Spanish and we saw a lot of Latinos coming to Grady Memorial Hospital with diabetes, and unfortunately they didn’t have the resources to pay for their education about this disease,” said Britt Rotberg, associate director and cofounder of the program.

It was the first accredited diabetes education program in Spanish in the United States. The accreditation was awarded in 2009 by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Since the program’s inception, it has helped 2,200 patients in the five locations where classes are offered: Grady North DeKalb in Chamblee; Grady North Fulton in Sandy Springs; Four Corners Primary Care in Norcross; the Latin American Association in Atlanta; and LifeLine Primary Care in Lilburn.

Those who attend the program learn how to achieve a healthy diet; maintain a routine of physical activity; understand the importance of testing their sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol; take medications correctly; lower complications associated with eyes, feet, heart, kidneys and reproductive organs; maintain sugar levels between 90 and 130 in periods of fasting; work on self-esteem issues; and include family members in the care of their condition.

Classes are offered once a month in each location. Students receive a completion certificate if they attend the initial class – which lasts 2.5 hours – and at least three follow up classes; also, they must lower their glucose level in the A1C test by an average of 1 percent.