June 16, 2001

Initial results from a UCLA-led study has found that the mortality rate of Hispanics ages 65-74 years with diabetes is more than twice the rate of non-Hispanic Whites. The same study also reported that, at any age level, the Latino mortality rate remains twice as high as non-Hispanic Whites.

The study was conducted for the Roybal Immunization Consortium for Older Adults (RICO) in a joint project involving the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health & Culture, the Edward R. Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology at California State University, Los Angeles, the California Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Program. Funding for the study was provided by the Tenet Healthcare Foundation.

Survey Reveals Differences In Latino Attitude Towards Diabetes

Diabetes has been termed a "Latino disease" because, as one of the top 10 causes of death, it is the only one for which the Hispanic rate is significantly higher than the non-Hispanic White rate.

"Diabetes is a major source of health problems, particularly among the elderly in the Hispanic community," said David E. Hayes-Bautista, lead researcher and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the UCLA School of Medicine. "Educational programs to reach this group are desperately needed."

The survey revealed new findings about the attitude of many Hispanics towards diabetes, including:

* Hispanic elderly are more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to cite the role of emotional factors, such as "susto" (strong emotional shock or trauma), "nervios" (emotional upset, not quite as strong as "susto") and stress as causative factors for diabetes

* Nearly one-sixth (13 percent) of the diabetic Hispanic elderly have never had an eye exam. Reasons cited include an incomplete knowledge of the diabetes process and an incomplete knowledge of the medical care system. One of the consequences of untreated diabetes is eye damage, particularly glaucoma; if left untreated, diabetes can cause loss of

* Latino elderly were as likely as non-Hispanic White to cite the role of heredity, diet and overweight in the causation of diabetes

* Surprisingly, Latino elderly (14 percent) were no more likely than non-Hispanic White elderly (12 percent) to believe that diabetes cannot be prevented or managed, dispelling the notion that Latinos are "fatalistic"

Culturally-Sensitive, Bilingual Educational Programs Needed

While the vast majority of survey respondents preferred to take the interview in Spanish; nearly one-third preferred English, indicating the importance of a bilingual educational program to reach this group.

"The results of the survey have tremendous implications in the development and implementation of services and education for Latinos," said Gustavo Valdespino, senior vice president, operations, Southern California for Tenet HealthSystem, sponsor of the survey. "Culturally sensitive, bilingual educational materials and support for diabetes management need to be top priorities."

About The Study

The RICO survey sampled 602 Hispanic and 577 non-Hispanic White elderly residents. The survey included elderly immigrant Latinos, U.S.-born Latinos, and non-Hispanic Whites. The population-based, random digital dial telephone survey was conducted in two large target areas of Los Angeles County.

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