Bad Sugars

I scored a 5/10 on the health equity quiz. I’m not too terribly disappointed with this score, as I got the first four or so wrong and was expecting to bomb them all. As it turned out, the later concepts I was more familiar with. I was definitely surprised with the first statistic, that the US is placed 29th for life expectancy. There are senior water aerobics at the pool I work at, with plenty of seniors well into their nineties. I guess I didn’t consider that this is coming from a stable middle class population. I wasn’t surprised that Japan has the highest life expectancy, based on the limited knowledge I have of their culture.

In “Bad Sugars”, the alarming prevalence of Type II Diabetes among the O’odham and Pima Native Americans of Arizona is discussed. Research has found that diabetes rates are almost double in minority populations that historically have been ripped from their roots and caused excessive stress. Stress hormones increase blood sugar, and elevated glucose levels can block small blood vessels resulting in blindness, kidney failure, and amputation. The damming of Arizona rivers in the 1920s, such as the Gila, depleted the water source that these communities relied on, forcing them into poverty and a diet devastating for diabetes. Living below the poverty line has shown to be a major cause of diabetes, but luckily a new water preservation act is giving them their livelihood back.

Diabetes is a good example of how politics, economics, environment, culture, biology and individual choice influence the development, spread and treatment of illness. Political actions such as the damming of rivers (and likewise the effect of the environment) can determine the economic status of an individual and if they are more likely to live in poverty. Under these pressures, cultures may transition from a healthy diet to a poor diet as a result of their new limited means. Regardless of this, individuals may also be genetically predisposed for a disease or simply choose not to take care of themselves. Economic status and personal choice also plays a large role in whether or not a disease is treated. Culturally, diseases like Type II Diabetes may be regarded as simply “bad sugars” and a way of life, further impeding effective treatment. There are many factors involving Type II Diabetes, but those groups exposed to high stress and low income are the most susceptible.

1 thought on “Bad Sugars

  1. I didn’t choose this story for my post, but I find it to be particularly interesting. I saw a documentary not too long ago about the increase of obesity related illnesses in Native American tribes of the Southwest, who were as a culture not traditionally prone to these diseases until recently, in the relative scope of time. It discussed the type of diet they were adapted to before the influx of people moving west and their being forced onto less and less land. Which I think speaks to your statement about people being used to healthy diet, being pushed into a diet of poor nutrition as their circumstances change. I think a possible solution to this issue would be a program to help these poorer communities get back to growing their food locally. This has been a wider trend in the country and would be easy to enact on a community-wide level. The water preservation program you mentioned in your post would be something local government and the community as a whole could spring-board off of into a sustainable food growing program. I think that alleviating this health problem should be a joint effort between the government and the community political and health leaders, as well as the individuals getting involved in a solution as well. An approach such as this could join the community together and could lead to more activism from the people themselves. Although, this is just a small start and wouldn’t completely work without the cooperation and interests from a lot of different aspects. But it could work as a small economical and biological step.

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