The Impact of Diabetes on Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Impact of Diabetes on Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease that disproportionately affects racial and economically disadvantaged minority groups in America. Nearly a third of all Americans are at risk – over 100 million Americans today have some form of glucose (sugar) intolerance: Diabetes Mellitus (about 25 million) or Prediabetes (several estimates place the number at over 80 million).

The impact of Diabetes on our society is staggering with various studies placing the economic cost at between $200 -250 million annually. That cost looms ever so much higher if one takes into account the national price tag for Dialysis which is over $6 billion a year!

Comorbid conditions associated with Diabetes include renal failure (kidney failure); myocardial infarction of acute coronary syndrome (heart attacks), cerebrovascular accidents (strokes); neuropathy (nerve damage) that often leads to limb amputation; and diabetic retinopathy (progressive visual loss to blindness).

Ethnic/Racial Disparities*

African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Asians have a higher prevalence of diabetes as well as a higher rate of complications than whites. Indeed, on average, the conglomeration of African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans bear a 50-100% greater burden of disease and mortality from Diabetes than White Americans.

Diabetes Statistics

African Americans
4.9 million African-American adults, or 18.7% of all African Americans 20 years of age, have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, compared to 7.1% of non-Hispanic white Americans. The risk of diabetes is 77% higher among African Americans than among non-Hispanic white Americans. In 2006, African-American men were 2.2 times more likely to start treatment for End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) related to diabetes than non-Hispanic white men. In 2006, African Americans with diabetes were 1.5 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.3 times more likely to die from diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.  African Americans are almost 50% more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than non-Hispanic whites.

Hispanic/Latino Americans

11.8% of Hispanic/Latino Americans 20 years of age have been diagnosed with diabetes. The risk of diabetes is 66% higher among Hispanic/Latino Americans than among non-Hispanic white Americans. Among Latino subpopulations, rates of diabetes in those > 20 years of age are 7.6% for both Cubans and for Central and South Americans, 13.3% for Mexican Americans, and 13.8% for Puerto Ricans. Hispanics are 1.7 times more likely to start treatment for End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) related to diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders

8.4% of Asian Americans > 20 years of age and 20.6% of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders > 18 years of age have been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes was the fifth-leading cause of death for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, rising from being the eighth-leading cause of death in 1980. Native Hawaiians have death rates from diabetes that are 22% higher than that of the entire U.S. population. Although Asian Americans tend to have lower BMIs in some subgroups, they are ~ 30% more likely to have type 2 diabetes than their white counterparts.15 Asian-American women are 177% more likely to test positive for GDM than white women and tend to develop it at a lower body weight.  52.3% of men and 42.4% of women 25-64 years of age in American Samoa have type 2 diabetes.

American Indians and Alaska Natives

At nearly 16.1%, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes among U.S. racial and ethnic groups. In 2004, the rate of death due to diabetes for American Indians and Alaska Natives was three times higher than that of the general U.S. population. The rate of diabetes-related kidney failure is 3.5 times higher in American Indians than in the general U.S. population.


*The Disparate Impact of Diabetes on Racial/Ethnic Minority Populations: Edward A. Chow, MD, Henry Foster, MD, Victor Gonzalez, MD and LaShawn McIver, MD, MPH, American Diabetes Association(R) Inc., 2012.

Whittier Street Health Center’s Contribution to Community Wellness and Our multi-faceted Intervention Diabetes Clinic Provides –

Experience and Expertise

Whittier doctors have expertise in treating people with all types of diabetes, including those with hard-to-control blood sugar.


Whittier Street Health Center offers a comprehensive educational program integrated in our Diabetes clinic as well as our Group sessions that arms patients with the tools and information to better control their blood sugars and lead a healthier and more productive life.

Multispecialty Team of Experts

Whittier employs and integrated team approach with the use of a team of specialists to create a customized treatment plan for each patient. Our Diabetes team includes a doctor, diabetes educator, an in-house pharmacist and registered dietitian who all work collaboratively to keep each patient’s blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. Whittier also offers the services of eye care and podiatry (foot care) that Diabetes patients regularly need. Referral and prompt access to kidney and other specialists is also readily available when needed.

Diabetes Group Visits
At Whittier Street Health Center, group visits are an innovative way to help patients with chronic disease better control their disease.  The groups assemble once a month in two distinct cluster and are utilized as important vehicles to reach a large number of patients at one time. The overall goal of these groups’ sessions is improved management of Diabetes Mellitus which in turn reduces the physical, fiscal and psychological burden of the disease.

For More Information

If you have Diabetes or know a loved one who does or might have Diabetes, please let us be of service and please call 617-427-1000 and make an appointment.

Additional Resources

Mayo Clinic:
American Diabetes Association:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
The National Diabetes Education Program:



A note about Whittier and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in our area, we ask all clients and patients to call ahead before coming to any of our sites. We are working to take care of most clients/patients via phone/video encounter so we can meet your ongoing healthcare needs. This is for your safety and so we can provide the highest quality of care to you while following CDC guidance for COVID-19. Please call 617-427-1000 for any questions or concerns.

Whittier will provide COVID-19 testing from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday to Friday. Following CDC guidance, we recommend testing if you have a fever AND one of the following three symptoms: cough OR shortness of breath OR sore throat. Please bring your picture identification and your insurance card (if you have insurance).