Asian American Disparities in Type 2 Diabetes

Asian American Disparities in Type 2 Diabetes

More than half of Asian Americans with diabetes do not know they have the disease compared to a quarter of Americans overall. We are commonly taught that obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, however, many Asian Americans who have diabetes are not obese, making the disease more difficult to identify. This isn't a surprise to physicians who primarily treat Asian American patients, but for those who don't, Dr. Elizabeth Tung, a physician at the University of Chicago, theorizes that:

“either patients don’t ask for diabetes screening because they think they are not at risk, or physicians don’t screen their patients because they think their Asian patients are healthier and at lower risk.”

The American Diabetes Association changed their guidelines and suggested that Asian American patients begin preventative testing at a lower BMI. Dr. Ronald Tamler, a nutrition-support physician and diabetes educator at Mount Sinai Health System, believes that this change is not enough, and diabetes screenings need to consider factors beyond just height and weight:

“Healthcare providers need to have a deeper understanding of culinary and cultural traditions that profoundly impact metabolic health,”

On a larger scale, the model minority myth causes physicians to assume that Asian American patients do not use drugs, do not commit crimes, and have a healthy lifestyle and diet. Many people believe that Asian food is mainly rice, meats, and vegetables. These stereotypes can promote harmful misinformation and prevent individuals from recieving the care they need.