Diabetes and Mexicans in USA: The Immigrant Health Paradox
Health authorities have declared the United States on alert, in response to increasing cases of type 2 diabetes in the country. Official reports refer to a threat of major proportions that makes a state of emergency public health, so much so that there is already talk of an emerging epidemic. The most affected are children and members of minorities, particularly Hispanics.
Medical studies suggest that Latinos have two times higher risk of this disease than people of any other race. The diabetes ranks first among health problems affecting Hispanics in this country. According to the American Diabetes Association, 2 million Hispanics have type 2 diabetes (10.2% of all U.S. Latinos), and the worst part is that half of them, or about a million, do not know they are ill. It is generally believed that one in four Latinos over 45 have diabetes.
Although there are no scientific studies that indicate the exact reasons why Hispanics are more likely to develop this disease, some experts believe it is due to an inherited genetic component. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the main cause of the high levels of diabetes in the Hispanic community is the high rate of obesity. It is estimated that one in five Latinos suffer from obesity or excess body fat.
Experts have expressed concern at the fact that diabetes is becoming a major economic problem within the Latino community. U.S. Hispanics are young, and if they begin to become incapacitated, their level of productivity and its future are compromised. It is very tragic to see a lot of Latino people 42 years going blind, without legs, with children to support, or people who are having heart attack at age 32. Moreover, many Hispanics in this country are uninsured, exacerbating the situation. Diabetes affects U.S. Hispanics disproportionately.
One of the communities most at risk is Mexican-immigrants, and I have chosen to study this community in New York City. I will explain the "immigrant health paradox" focusing my story on diabetes and obesity.