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Diabetes in California: Observations from the Diabetes Atlas (D-Atlas)

By Dr. Gary Puckrein, President and CEO, National Minority Quality Forum

Diabetes is a disorder that affects the way our body uses food for energy. Normally, the sugar we take in is digested and broken down to a simple sugar, known as glucose. The glucose then circulates in our blood, where it waits to enter cells to be used as fuel. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps move the glucose into cells. A healthy pancreas adjusts the amount of insulin needed based on the level of glucose. In those of us who have diabetes, this process has broken down, and blood glucose levels have become too high. High levels of glucose may lead to major organ damage, causing blindness, and kidney and cardiovascular diseases.

The number of people in the United States suffering from diabetes has grown exponentially, but not all communities have experienced the same rate of growth. It has long been understood that the prevalence of chronic diseases varies by geography. The southeastern United States, for example, is commonly referred to as the Stroke Belt. Regional variations in disease patterns are commonly attributed to environment, personal behavior, and access to care. There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests that genetic variations may cause some individuals to be more susceptible to particular diseases.

In 2007, the National Minority Quality Forum launched the Diabetes Atlas (D-Atlas), which graphically maps type-2 diabetes prevalence in the United States down to the legislative-district level by race/ethnicity, age, and gender for the years 2000 through 2007. The D-Atlas provides a unique opportunity to measure variations in the prevalence of diabetes over space and time. The D-Atlas shows that diabetes tends to aggregate in certain communities.

The proportion of the U.S. population with diabetes has grown from 3.5 percent in 2000 to 7.5 percent in 2007, but the diabetes rates have been much higher in some locales. In California, there are 1,672 zip codes where people live (some zip codes have no residents). In 2000, 75 of these zip codes comprised populations with more than 10.5 percent of who were diabetic. In 2007, the number of zip codes with more than 10.5 percent diabetic population had grown to 208.

With public as well as private budgets severely constrained, the D-Atlas offers opportunities to improve management of existing resources by identifying high-risk communities.

Access to the D-Atlas's California data is free of charge for nonprofit organizations. The only requirement is that a user register. To register or to find more information on the National Minority Quality Forum's atlases, please visit the Web site: http://www.nmqf.org/about_atlases.aspx.

To learn more about the D-Atlas, and to hear Dr. Puckrein's presentation on Diabetes, please RSVP to CPAT's "Diabetes in California" luncheon seminars in both Fresno and San Bernardino.






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