Since Nydia Rodriguez met Wanda Santiago about a year ago, the New London resident has lost 20 pounds and gotten her Type 2 diabetes under control. That’s because Santiago, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s bilingual diabetes educator, has taught Rodriguez, a former nurse from Puerto Rico, about portion control, sugar substitutes and how to cut back on bread and pasta. Santiago, who was also a nurse in Puerto Rico, has even connected Rodriguez with food banks that offer fresh fruit and vegetables. “I talk to her almost every day,” Rodriguez, 64, said in Spanish, with her daughter Yolanda Mejias translating. “If I need anything, I’ll call her.”
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and the main cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations and adult blindness.
For the roughly 9 percent of Connecticut’s population who live with diabetes, eating healthy and knowing how foods can affect the disease is crucial to managing it. The Conn. Health I-Team, (www.c-hit.org) in collaboration with ConnectiCare and the Hispanic Health Council, is hosting a public forum featuring a sampling of healthy food choices on Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Lyceum in Hartford, where experts will discuss the latest developments in diabetes treatments and offer advice about how adopting a healthy lifestyle can help combat the disease. The free event, “Recipes for Healthy Living: Defeating Diabetes,” will include a social hour, cooking demonstration and food tasting starting at 5 p.m. Billings Forge Executive Chef Becky Stevens-McGuigan will present her picks for good food choices, including grilled chicken skewers with salsa verde, watermelon and feta skewers, roasted sweet potato salad and a roasted cauliflower salad.
Connecticut’s diabetes rate ranks lower than the national average, but Hispanics and African-Americans are more than twice as likely to have the disease compared with their white neighbors and are at greater risk of dying from diabetes-related causes. Approximately 250,000 Connecticut adults (8 percent) have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and an estimated 83,000 state residents don’t realize they have the disease, according to 2011-13 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationally, 29.1 million people (9.3 percent) have diabetes and 8.1 million people don’t know they have the disease, reports the CDC. Connecticut’s Hispanics (14.6 percent) and African-Americans (14.1 percent) have significantly higher rates of diabetes than whites (6.7 percent). In addition, adults with annual household incomes below $25,000 are 2.3 times more likely to have diagnosed diabetes compared with adults with household incomes over $75,000, according to the CDC.
Local public health officials and health care providers are zeroing in on health disparities by using the “health equity index,” an online tool to measure the correlation between health and the socioeconomic factors that define a community.
Health disparities between blacks and whites in categories including maternal deaths and advanced-stage breast cancer diagnoses are worsening, while only a handful of disparities related to race, ethnicity or income showed significant improvement between 2002 and 2008, a new federal report shows.
Over the years, Andy Gow of Wallingford didn’t know what to make of word that more and more of his former Air Force buddies were being diagnosed with prostate cancer or diabetes. Then, in 2003, he got the news firsthand—he had both diseases – and began to connect the dots.