When health equity is mentioned, some people immediately associate it with race. However, health equity encompasses much more than that. At the American Diabetes Association (ADA), we consider various indicators such as zip codes, socioeconomic status, proximity to healthy foods, access to healthcare, the digital divide, and other structural and social determinants of health (SDOH) to identify prevalent disparities and inequities.
I became aware of these differences through personal experience. While I now have the ability to walk to Whole Foods, enjoy nearby trails, and access top-notch healthcare facilities, it wasn’t always the case. I grew up in the inner city of southwest Philadelphia where access to nutritious food, green spaces for exercise, and high-quality healthcare was limited. Addressing these disparate realities drives my purpose and guides my work at the ADA.
These disparities contribute to higher rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and prediabetes, and the incidence rates continue to go up. According to the 2022 National Diabetes Statistics Report, over 133 million people in the U.S. are living with diabetes or prediabetes. The ADA continues to be a significant driving force in diabetes research, care, and education. And now that’s needed more than ever.
It’s a significant undertaking, and we can’t do it alone. We are fueled by our passion and partnership with community organizations, other nonprofits, government, and industry that enable us to bring prevention programs, education, and access to diabetes management technology. Here are some examples of our work in under-resourced communities.
ENSURING EVERYONE HAS ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOOD
Let’s take a Chicago community we’ve recently focused on, where the average life expectancy is only 59.9 years. Just 12 miles away, people live an average of 90 years. Additionally, the prevalence of diabetes for the first location is 19.3%, more than twice the national average of 9.3%. Over 500,000 residents in Chicago live in a food desert, lacking access to healthy food, which has a negative impact on the development and management of diabetes. To address this, the ADA has partnered with a community organization to support weekly distributions of fresh produce boxes to households in the Chicagoland area. We’re also working to raise awareness and provide education about diabetes and prediabetes.
ENSURING EVERYONE BENEFITS FROM THE LATEST MEDICAL ADVANCES
In Columbus, Ohio, we partner with a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Black communities facing adverse social determinants of health. Through this collaboration, individuals living with diabetes have received continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), which provide real-time blood glucose readings. CGMs can significantly improve outcomes for people with diabetes, reducing the risk of potentially life-threatening complications. Unfortunately, not everyone with diabetes can access CGMs due to insurance coverage and other social determinants of health. Initial feedback from participants shows that their diabetes management has become easier with the help of CGMs. Some have described access to this innovative technology as lifesaving and life changing.
ENSURING EVERYONE RECEIVES DIABETES MANAGEMENT AND FUTURE CURES
In Birmingham, Alabama, the estimated adult diabetes prevalence is 17.3%, which is 8% higher than the national average. Diabetes is the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 18-64, disproportionately affecting communities of color. Routine eye exams can reduce this risk, but not everyone receives the necessary eye health care due to systemic inequities. Thanks to the support of a corporate partner, we are working with community organizations in Birmingham to identify barriers to eye health and improve connections between primary care, eye doctors, and hospital systems based on the lessons learned.
EVERYONE DESERVES HEALTH EQUITY NOW!
As advocates for health equity, the ADA prioritizes community-centric interventions that aim to reduce, and eventually eliminate, barriers to equitable health for all. No zip code, race, or background should determine a person’s health outcomes. We are committed to achieving Health Equity Now!