New legislation seeks to address diabetes epidemic among minority populations

Gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes are significantly more common among racial minorities, but new legislation introduced into Congress seeks to address these issues by making educational and other health resources more available to those affected by the problem.

The Health Equity and Accountability Act was recently introduced by Representatives Barbara Lee, Dona Christensen and Lucille Roybal-Allard. It seeks to address racial disparities in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes by supporting research, prevention efforts, public education and training of the healthcare workforce.

Officials from the American Diabetes Association said the legislation is critical to providing the type of care needed to address the growing racial disparities.

"It's important that we provide more effective treatment and education to those that are disproportionately affected by all forms of diabetes," said Edward A. Chow, MD, chair of the Asian Pacific Islander American Diabetes Association Action Council. "This bill includes provisions critical to our nation's fight to stop diabetes."

While diabetes affects just over 7 percent of white Americans, its prevalence is much higher among minority groups. More than 12 percent of African Americans have the condition, while 11.8 percent of the Hispanic population is diabetic. American Indians have been hit the hardest of any racial group, as more than 16 percent of these individuals are diabetic.

In addition to seeking to increase the care of minorities at risk for type 2 diabetes, the legislation specifically targets gestational diabetes, as this condition increases the risk that both the mother and the child will develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Heading off gestational diabetes could prevent two cases of the metabolic condition down the road.